Personal Counseling Theory Overview

Counseling theories investigate various sides of human personality and propose different ways to treat patients. Many scientists debate on the topics of human nature, the source of problems and challenges, prevention and treatment of mental health issues and more. While some theories focus on the actions of a counselor to help a patient, others value the patient’s thought processes and conclusions. A counselor’s practice may be influenced by multiple theoretical models to create the most effective treatment strategy. It is important for a therapist to have a complete theory to tend to patients. The purpose of this paper is to form a personal counseling theory, which focuses on the nature of people, their place in families and other systems, the development of problems, the methods of prevention of mental health issues and problems, and on the process of change.

The Nature of People

Human nature is viewed differently in every counseling theory. Some approaches view humans as inherently good, while others say that human nature is dynamic and changeable. For example, one of the most famous theories is the psychodynamic theory, the core belief of which is that a person has basic needs and desires that are constrained by obtained senses of morality. However, this theory fails to take into the account possible differences in environment, equalizing the experiences of every person. In my opinion, behavioral theory is more correct. This theory treats every person as an individual, believing that every behavior, positive or negative, is obtained through experience. In this case, actions of a patient play a significant role in his or her mental health improvement. Ryan, Lynch, Vansteenkiste, and Deci (2011) define mental health as a state of integrity and authenticity, as it implies a person, who is aware of reality and controls his or her actions. If a person can act independently and has no distorted thoughts or emotional responses, this person represents the notion of effective functioning.

The Individual in Families and Other Systems

From birth, an individual is exposed to various groups that directly affect the child’s perception of the world. The presence of familial bonds and relationships may shape a person’s view of other people and create a foundation for mental health problems. Bowen family systems theory shows that the individual’s feelings and actions can be strongly influenced by family members. An individual has two opposing desires – gaining independence from family and establishing a strong connection to it (Haefner, 2014). This theory indicates that a family system greatly influences an individual. Moreover, it suggests that knowledge about making connections, created at a young age, transfers to the individual’s adult life and spreads onto his or her communicative capabilities. Following that, an older individual gathers a set of patterns that can be used in creating new relationships in other systems. If this set of patterns is incompatible with the society’s norm, this individual may experience problems (Thoits, 2011).

Multicultural Considerations

Cultural differences also influence a person’s perception. Moreover, counselors should bear in mind that some possible cultural variations can affect an individual’s situation. According to Comstock et al. (2008), cultural differences can create a barrier between a counselor and a patient. In this case, the connection between a therapist and a patient may be unstable, and that can influence the progress and slow down the process of change. If can also alter the way a therapist views some problems of a patient. If a problem is connected to a cultural difference and a therapist is not experienced or knowledgeable enough to assist this patient, following treatment will not be successful. Therefore, counselors should be prepared to treat patients with different cultural backgrounds and situations. Cultural competence plays a significant role in the treatment outcome.

Wellness and Prevention

The process of maintaining emotional wellness is a complex system of actions that help an individual to retain mental health (Huppert, 2009). If a person seeks help because of a mental health issue, a counselor can suggest a number of actions to control the issue and prevent its possible reoccurrence. Preventative actions can differ from one experience to another, because every person may need to concentrate on resolving a particular problem. The ways to prevent a patient from engaging in negative behaviors, such as substance abuse and physical abuse can include encouraging patients to participate in entertaining activities that do not pose a threat to mental and physical health and do not have addictive properties. A therapist can provide support and social interaction, promote further social interaction outside therapy and teach a patient to solve problems independently. Moreover, encouraging an individual to analyze his or her thoughts and actions and predict the possible outcomes to stress inducing situations can help patients to maintain wellness.

The Nature of Problems

People can develop problems because of a number of reasons. These reasons may lie in the environment of an individual, his or her past experiences and relationships, as well as chemical imbalance and genetic predisposition. According to Kendler (2012), every challenge that an individual faces can occur due to a complex confluence of reasons. This approach strongly resembles a biopsychological model that proposes to focus on multiple reasons of problem development. A counselor should examine the patient’s problem from every angle. Some people may develop a problem as a reaction to a negative social experience that happened in the past. In this situation, an individual’s thoughts may shape this person’s view of other situations that may occur later. Other people may encounter a challenge because of their chemical dysfunction. Such mental health problems can be hard to define for a patient and require careful examination. Ineffective functioning often comes as a consequence of already developed problems. Ineffective functioning is an inability of an individual to properly access the situation and abstain from engaging in deteriorating behavior.

The Process of Change

If the counseling process is being successful, and counselor and a patient establish a trusting relationship, a patient goes through multiple changes. First of all, the counselor wants a client to start thinking about the discussed problem more thoroughly and uncover possible reasons and causes of the problem over time. Secondly, the patient should be able to discuss and implement potential ways to solve the problem or mitigate its consequences. Finally, it is important for a patient to create a system of preventative actions or thoughts to maintain wellbeing. The participation of a counselor should be active, but not overly imposing and controlling. Counselors should establish a trusting relationship with their client and strive to motivate him or her to change his or her behavior. This relationship can be placed in between two theories – behavioral and humanistic. The humanistic approach centers on the client and his or her explorations of thoughts and feelings, while the behavioral approach focuses on the possible ways of solving the problems.

Theory in Practice

For a client to go through the process of change, a counselor should offer assistance in the form of various strategies, techniques, and tools. According to Hage et al. (2007), preventive actions play a major role in the counseling process. Although giving a patient some freedom to explore his or her behavior patterns and come to conclusions independently is important, it is not always possible. Humanistic approach believes that a patient is capable of self-healing, which is not the absolute way of dealing with all mental health issues. The cognitive-behavioral approach, on the other hand, proposes to use the patient’s thoughts and turn them into useful tools that change cognition. A counselor and a patient should come to an understanding and pick the best strategy for every situation. Such preventative actions as focusing on a particular activity or goal should also be considered. The skill of analyzing one’s thoughts and actions should also be implemented into a client’s routine.


Human nature is a complex structure, formed by one’s previous experiences, culture, and beliefs. An individual shapes and is shaped by various relationships throughout the course of his or her life. Moreover, a counselor should always take into account the cultural background of a client. People that are not able to maintain emotional wellness on their own seek guidance from a counselor, who can suggest some preventative actions. These people may develop problems based on the environment and past or present actions and thoughts, or encounter challenges created by chemical imbalance and genetics. In any case, a counselor should establish a trusting relationship with a patient and find a good balance between giving a client more independence and guiding a client in the right direction. It is important for all professionals to remember that integrating the strategies and beliefs from multiple theories can make one’s practice more elaborate and successful.


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Haefner, J. (2014). An application of Bowen family systems theory. Issues in mental health nursing, 35(11), 835-841.

Hage, S. M., Romano, J. L., Conyne, R. K., Kenny, M., Matthews, C., Schwartz, J. P., & Waldo, M. (2007). Best practice guidelines on prevention practice, research, training, and social advocacy for psychologists. The Counseling Psychologist, 35(4), 493-566.

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Thoits, P. A. (2011). Mechanisms linking social ties and support to physical and mental health. Journal of health and social behavior, 52(2), 145-161.

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