Theories of Counseling

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0Richard S. Sharf

Individual and Family Studies


HDFS 684


Spring 2010
Course Objectives and Goals:
Counseling and psychotherapy offer an opportunity for counselors to help others who experience personal distress. Psychotherapists and counselors have developed theories (methods) to help individuals with a wide variety of personal problems. This course offers an opportunity to learn about different theories that will increase your understanding of psychotherapy and counseling. You will have the opportunity to decide which theories you would prefer to use, given the opportunity to do so. This course will also explore the ways that theories of counseling can be used in a variety of student affairs occupations.
Each class period will be spent explaining and illustrating the reading which describes (usually) one or two theories of psychotherapy and counseling. To explain and illustrate theories, lectures will focus on some of the more complex aspects of the theories. Video tapes of therapy, role-playing by the instructor and/or students, and small discussion groups will be used to provide answers to questions that are described next.
The text describes the significant features of each therapy. The three most important aspects that will receive the most attention in class are these:
History or background - How was the theory developed? What ideas influenced the theoretical development?
Personality theory - How does the theorist explain and view human behavior, thoughts, and/or feelings? How does the theorist understand the client’s problems?
Techniques of psychotherapy and counseling - (This is the most important focus of the course).

What are the goals or purpose of the theory? How do counselors and others assess or conceptualize behavior, thoughts, or feelings? Which tests or inventories are used? What techniques or methods are used to change behavior, thoughts, and/or feelings?

Other areas of the text will be covered to varying degrees in class. These include:
Applications to psychological disorders - What techniques are used to bring about changes in disorders such as depression, generalized anxiety, and borderline disorders?

Brief psychotherapy - How can the therapy be done more quickly, or more efficiently?
Current trends - How is the theory changing in its techniques and training methods?
Using the theory with other theories - How flexible is the theory? How can its techniques be combined with those from another theory? How do integrative therapists use theories?
Research - How well can the effectiveness of therapeutic change be tested? What types of research have been done and what are their findings? (This will be covered very briefly, and sometimes not at all.)
Gender issues - How does the theory view men and women differently? How does the therapy address special concerns of women?
Multicultural issues - What cultural values are implicit in the theory? How does the theory attend to the concerns of individuals from different cultures?
Group counseling - How can the theories and their techniques be applied to group therapy?

Summary of Learning Objectives

By learning concepts that explain answers to these questions, students should be able to explain how counseling and psychotherapy are done by different theorists. The concepts that are most important in the course are those that explain personality theory and techniques to change behavior, thoughts or feelings. By learning information about each of the topics for theories covered in this course (as described below in the syllabus), students should be able to do well on multiple choice examinations for the course as well as on certification and licensure multiple choice examinations,

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