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The importance of different theories in counseling practice is discussed in this lesson. Learn what evidence-based practice is and whether all theoretical models are used with each client.

Questioning Theoretical Models

Imagine going to an amusement park as a kid for the very first time. Should you run to the biggest rollercoaster, head for the Ferris wheel, or start with the bumper cars? Are you going to try something from each food booth? Are the boardwalk games really worth your time? All of the different options might make you feel overwhelmed.Sorting through all of the different theoretical models as you begin a counseling practice can be just as overwhelming.

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Theoretical models in counseling are concepts that provide a framework used to describe and understand our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.As you study to be a counselor, you learn many different theoretical approaches. Each of these theoretical models will have their own tools and techniques.

Some simply focus on behavior modification, some focus on resolving past conflicts, others focus on what a person is experiencing in the here and now. Why are there so many different approaches? Does it all apply to each client?

Choosing an Approach

Let’s start by considering whether or not you have to apply all of the different theoretical approaches in your counseling practice. The short answer to this is no. You can choose which theory or theories you are most comfortable with using.There are two main approaches to this choice: purity and eclecticism.

If you choose theoretical eclecticism, you are utilizing techniques from different theoretical models in a counseling practice.If you pick this option for your counseling practice, you can choose the tools that you work best with and those that will work best for each individual client. Theoretical eclecticism allows for more flexibility and treatment options. Most counselors today choose this option.If you choose theoretical purity, you are utilizing only one theoretical model in a counseling practice. When choosing to focus on only one theoretical model, it is important to recognize when it may not be the best fit for a potential or existing client.Imagine how therapy might work if you have a counselor whose techniques are based on rational decision-making trying to treat a client whose mental illness prevents them from making rational connections.

If this type of situation occurs, the client would need to be referred to a different counselor who is more likely to fit their needs.

Why So Many Approaches?

Why are there are so many different theories for a counselor to choose from? The first reason is that one theory may work better than another for a specific client. This could be because of the client’s personal preferences, cultural beliefs, or because a particular theoretical model has been proven more effective in treating a specific disorder.Having many different theories also allows a counselor to find the technique they are most comfortable with. For a counselor to be successful, they have to be effective at the approach they take. This means that their approach has to fit their personality, cultural beliefs, and abilities.Another reason that there are many different theories is that new research is continually being done.

This research leads to the development of new approaches and ideas. New techniques do not replace existing theories or take away from their validity; they simply add another tool that counselors can utilize.These three factors allow for the best possible counseling environments to be formed. An ideal situation would look something like this: A counselor is most comfortable working with theoretical models that deal with behavior modification. A client comes to him seeking help overcoming a phobia. The counselor is up to date on all of the current research involving behavior modification techniques and knows which one will best fit this particular situation. The client wants a behavior change, the counselor is comfortable with this type of therapy, and he knows which tools are most appropriate for the situation.

Evidence-Based Practice

Theoretical models provide an essential tool for organization within counseling. Arranging counseling techniques within different theoretical models helps categorize these techniques for study and practice.This means that when a counselor is presented with a client, the counselor can look up what theoretical models have been shown to work best for clients with similar problems, see what techniques they have to choose from, and decide which to apply.

Counseling professionals seek to choose the best interventions for each particular client. You may hear this referred to as evidence-based practice. Evidence-based practice, or EBP, requires therapy based on techniques that have been proven to work through scientific research and provides a level of accountability that is becoming more and more important in today’s counseling environment.

Lesson Summary

Theoretical models in counseling are concepts that provide a framework used to describe and understand our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. There are many different approaches to counseling.

These different theoretical models provide therapists with many tools to choose from. It is important that both the client and the therapist are suited for the type of theoretical model being used.Therapists can choose to practice either theoretical purity, where only one theoretical model is used, or theoretical eclecticism, where techniques from different theoretical models are used.

Research is constantly adding to the development of new approaches and ideas. Therapy based on techniques that have been proven to work through scientific research are called evidence-based practices (EBP).

Learning Outcomes

You’ll have the ability to do the following after this lesson:

  • Explain how theoretical models are used in counseling
  • Differentiate between theoretical purity and theoretical eclecticism
  • Understand why there are so many different theoretical approaches in counseling
  • Describe what evidence-based practices are

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