Personal Philosophy of Counseling
 
 Socrates:
  "The unexamined life is not a life worth living for a human being."


My practical view of the function of counseling is as a journey of self-exploration by the client, meant to increase his/her level of self-understanding and self-awareness. I as counselor act as the guide or facilitator of this journey. I as counselor do not act as the self-appointed expert on the client's life who effortlessly dispenses advice to the client on what he/she should be thinking, feeling, and doing. I as counselor do not readily provide answers/solutions to client questions/problems regarding themselves and their lives. From my experience, clients are much more inclined to own and operate an answer/solution if it is of their own creation. On some level of consciousness based on his/her experience in life, I believe the client is in possession of the answers to his questions. It is my job to make those answers explicit. It is my job to help clients identify, develop, and mobilize their own resources to successfully solve problems and meet challenges.
Explore to Understand - Understand to Act
This model breaks down counseling to its simplest form. We fully explore the issues to increase understanding; and based on this increased understanding, the client is encouraged to take some action. And action implies change. Yet human beings generally do not embrace this idea of change. They prefer to remain in their "comfort zone". The paradox may be that this "comfort zone", which is supposed to provide safety and security and satisfaction and contentment, is in fact causing some level of suffering. This suffering is the catalyst for seeking out counseling.

Henry David Thoreau -
"Simplify the problem of life. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances and reduces it to it simplest terms."

My brand of therapy is talk therapy, pure and simple. Dialogue between two human beings. In my view, primary to the art and outcome of counseling are the attitudes and personal characteristics of the therapist and the (high) quality of the client/therapist relationship. These therapist qualities include (and are not limited to) mutual respect, authenticity, genuineness, ability to empathize, acceptance, and unconditional positive regard for the client. I work very hard at cultivating and nurturing a strong, healthy, working relationship with my client, if for no other reason than to role-model for the client his/her capacity for successfully participating in just such a relationship. Therefore, the therapeutic process is relationship-centered rather than theory/technique-centered. During the exploration to understanding stage, I also work hard at making the client feel understood through active listening, reflection of feeling, and accurate empathic understanding. My level of interaction and assertiveness (if you will) tends to increase during the action stage, within which I strive to encourage and motivate the client to take action on the prevailing issues of mutual understanding.

Benjamin Disraeli -
"Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action."

My approach:
  • emphasizes the client's resources for becoming self-aware and for resolving blocks to personal growth
  • allows for the client to determine the direction of therapy
  • and puts the client (not the therapist) at the center of therapy.
The afore-mentioned forms the foundation for my own counseling technique. Depending on the client and the situation, I do borrow perspectives and techniques from other well-established counseling theories. To name a few:
  • Solution-focused. People generally seek out counseling with an immediate need to alleviate some current, on-going stressor. This therapy essentially:
    • assesses where you are
    • reviews your values and goals
    • develops an action plan for achieving a more satisfying life that reflects your true values.
    This therapy is generally targeted, time-limited, and operates largely on a behavioral basis. i.e. What are you going to do about your problem?
  • Motivational interviewing is designed to identify a person's resources and motivation for change. This theoretic style:
    • enhances innate motivation for change by exploring and resolving ambivalence (decision-making paralysis/inability to make a choice)
    • attempts to free clients from the ambivalence that entraps them in repetitive cycles of self-defeating or self-destructive behavior
    • helps clients to recognize the discrepancy between present behavior and important goals, values, and/or principles.
  • Cognitive-behavioral theory helps clients better understand the connection between how they monitor and instruct themselves and interpret events and how they feel and act. This insight-focused therapy:
    • emphasizes challenging and changing mistaken notions, faulty assumptions, irrational thoughts, and maladaptive beliefs
    • suggests that a person's painful feelings and questionable behaviors are largely the result of his/her choice of thoughts
    • and further postulates that a change in how you think about a particular subject…results in a change of feelings and behaviors in response to that different outlook.

    The Greek philosopher Plato theorized as far back as his lifetime (429-347 B.C.) that:
    • powerful emotional forces have the potential to overwhelm a person's everyday behavior
    • conflicts exist between different parts of the psyche, accounting for the dissonance that often arises between a person's rational side (desired) and the surge of emotional feelings
    • mental disorders do not result from simple ignorance, but from irrational superstitions, erroneous beliefs, and faulty cognitions.
  • Reality therapy is largely behavioral in its approach, challenging clients to evaluate what they are doing and whether their behavior is fulfilling their basic needs (belonging, power, freedom, fun, physical survival) without harming themselves or others. This theory proposes that:
    • people have freedom to make choices, and then must contend with the subsequent responsibilities that result from those choices
    • behavior is in fact all-encompassing of the acts of doing, thinking, feeling, and physically being, meaning clients are responsible for choosing not only what they are doing but also what they are thinking, feeling, and experiencing physically
    • clients focus on what they are able and willing to do in the present to change their behavior.
    Emphasized are the client's self-evaluation, a plan of action, and a commitment to change (following through).
  • Existential therapy is a process of searching for value and meaning in life. This approach:
    • emphasizes our freedom to choose what to make of our circumstances
    • is grounded on the assumption that we are living in a free society and therefore responsible for our choices and actions
    • stands on the premise that we are not victims of circumstance, because to a large extent we are what we choose to be.
    The therapist's task is to encourage clients to explore their options for creating a meaningful existence.
  • Family systems approach views the family from an interactive and systemic perspective, which sees an individual's dysfunctional behavior as a manifestation of dysfunctional behavior within the system or as affecting the system negatively. This view stresses the importance of addressing all parts of a system if positive change is to take place and be maintained. Virginia Satir's rules and roles within a family are explored, as well as ineffective and/or non-existent communication patterns. Individuals are always seen as parts of a whole (family unit), rather than as identified patients, separate and distinct.
What makes counseling so stimulating and challenging is the fact that every client is unique. Each story is compelling. In terms of therapeutic technique and strategy, one size definitely does not fit all. The counselor must be skilled at tailoring his/her theoretical method to match the client in the moment. A client-centered philosophy such as mine endeavors to create a counseling environment and develop an alliance within which client revelation and change and personal growth are realized. Ideally, truth becomes self-evident. I go into each and every relationship with the expectation that client quality of life will improve. All I ask from you is your honesty and commitment to the process. You have mine.

I subscribe to the strictest ethical code of the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Your confidentiality and trust are paramount.

 

This page was updated April 12, 2005.
This website Copyright © 2005 by Mike Grisham. All rights reserved.