Amalgamation of Counseling Theories Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Integrative Approach to Counseling

The theories that the author will compare and contrast within this document include gestalt theory, choice theory and its practical application, reality therapy, and psychoanalytic therapy. There are definite points of similarity and variance between these theories. The natural starting point for comparison and contrasting lies with an analysis of gestalt theory and choice theory/reality therapy. Gestalt theory was largely founded by Frederick Perls (Wagner-Moore, 2004, p. 180) and Miriam and Erwing Polster (Jacobs, 2010, p. 25), whereas Glasser is widely credited with launching the notion of reality theory (Bradley, 2014, p. 6). A critical point of similarity between these theories is that they are unequivocally focused on the present, or the proverbial 'here and now' of the patient and his or her cognitive, emotional, and physical states. Interestingly enough, these theories take different perspectives for addressing those present needs of the individuals counseled. The primary distinction between them is that gestalt theory acknowledges a direct correlation between the past and lingering emotions or events that affected an individual's past and the present. Choice theory and reality therapy, on the other hand, makes a point to deliberately forsake critical aspects of the past (Bradley, 2014, p. 6). Subsequently, the true point of distinction in the focus on temporal causative agents is that reality therapy is a lot less willing to acknowledge the role that the unconscious mind plays in the sort of difficulties an individual may have. Gestalt theory, however, attributes a good deal of significance to the unconscious -- which either may or may not be related to the past -- and attempts to explicate and work through it in order to best help an individual. The degree of emphasis on the unconscious is a point which greatly relates to psychoanalytic theory, which was arguably most popularized by Sigmund Freud (Bornstein, 2010, p. 133). Freud did some of the pioneering work on the notion of an unconscious mind and its effects that it can produce on people in present times, which may have stemmed from earlier events. Psychoanalytic theory, for the most part, is concerned with the personality. Counselors largely attempt to reconstruct the personality of an individual to cope with the dominant events in his or her life (Bornstein, 2010, p. 134) -- which this theory contends pertains to the unconscious minds and unconscious tendencies. Still, there is a dearth of focus on one's present problems ascribed to this theory which tends to focus more on the past and on the unconscious than it does on those present problems. The idea is that an understanding of the past and the reconstruction of personality will eventually impact present and future cognitive and emotional states for the individual -- which is a point of distinction from the other two theories which are adamantly focused on the present and whatever issues it present to the client.

2. The above points of comparison between these theories allude to their compatibility for the purpose of integration. It is quite obvious that gestalt theory and choice theory / reality therapy are suitable for integration, since both of these theories focus on the present issues that the client has. This focus on the present and even on the future will play a large role in the integration efforts advanced in this document. The principle point of distinction between these two is the importance imputed to the past. There is something extremely pragmatic and even a little romantic about choice theory's concentration on the present and the future to the exclusion of the past issues (Bradley 2014, p. 8), the unconscious, and even the notion of transference, to a large extent. As healthy as such a forward motion unambiguously is, however, it can only be abetted by a consideration of the past and the unconscious proclivities of an individual as relates to the past. This focus on the past and on the unconscious is gained from both psychoanalytic and gestalt theory. The latter does so in a way that is extremely congruent with the emphasis on the present and future situation of a patient that is the proverbial backbone of this the integration advocated herein. Although psychoanalytic theory considers the unconscious and previous events more so than it does present ones, it involves a degree of personality analysis that can help to determine the forward progress of a client (Bornstein, 2010, p. 136) when combined with these other two theories. Personality tests are used in a variety of interviews for work positions across a number of vertical industries. There is no reason that one's personality type could not help a troubled client to determine what aspect of their life to focus on going forward.

In fact, there are a number of different ways in which gestalt theory seemingly functions as the synthesis of psychoanalytic theory and reality theory, since it incorporates a retrograde motion and preoccupation with the unconscious of the former while focusing on the present and future needs of the patient in the latter (Schulz, 2013, p. 24). This fact alone reinforces the degree of compatibility between these three theories. Additionally, gestalt theory also provides the basis for the theoretical integration ascribed to in this document because it is based on analyzing the unconscious and the past as the very means of a patient going forward and fostering new support systems to help him or her improve his or her life.

3. One of the specific components of reality therapy that is integral to its integration with the other two theories is that it is predicated on self-assertion and self-control -- which the other two merely hint upon. Reality theory is based on the notion that individuals can change their lives at the present moment, and that each subsequent moment is a mere consequence of the present. In particular, reality theory posits the notion that individuals are actuated by psychological needs for freedom, fun, belonging and power (Bradley, 2013, p. 7). The idea is that by helping clients to actualize these aspects of their lives, they can take control of them and actually find greater degrees of fulfillment and less emotional and perhaps cognitive baggage than they otherwise could. These aspects of reality theory will certainly play a considerable role in my amalgamation of these three theories into a cohesive one in which the strengths of certain theories help to balance out the limitations of the others.

There are numerous aspects of gestalt theory that will inform the integrated theory propounded in this document. Firstly, gestalt theory attempts to denote that there are certain lingering elements of a person's past that are affecting that individual in the presence. Moreover, this theory postulates that virtually all of these lingering elements are negative and include, most eminently, resentment, as well as a host of other negative nouns and attributes such as anger, avoidance, guilt etc., which serve to block positive attributes (Wagner-Moore, 2004, p. 182). Specifically, then, then this theory conceives that people are plagued in the present by issues that are unresolved from their past, and that by addressing them they can move on and enjoy a better present and future. To that end, there are a number of critical components of this theory that will form a fundamental part of the synthesized approach between the three theories. In particular, the notion of aboutism and confluence can produce a marked effect on patients and their tendency to enable the past to confound them in the present. Other key concepts that will affect the way this theory is leveraged with the other includes the fact that this theory will take an internal perspective to affect external outcomes in the present.

The way that psychoanalytic theory will inform this integration of theories is in helping counselors to understand the specific issues in the past that may have impacted a client. Specifically, some of this theory's notions of the unconscious can yield such insight (Stoycheva et al., 2014, p. 100), and there are a few of its techniques that can help those who choose to utilize the integrationist approach prescribed in this paper. Various aspects of free association, dream analysis, and psychological interpretation can help to elucidate factors of a person's unconscious that impact their present cognitive and emotional state of being -- many of these concepts are in fact associated with psychoanalytic theory.

4. The personalized integrative theoretical model for conceptualization and treatment of individuals, couples and families advocated in this document will be founded in the immediacy of reality therapy and choice theory. That immediacy is reflected in this theory's core belief that people can take control of their lives and create much more impact in the present to influence their livelihoods than whatever events took place in the past are able to do. One of the key facets of treatment that stems from this theory is the role of the counselor, who functions somewhat as a life coach. In this sort of way, the counselor is encouraging, responsive, and…

Sources Used in Document:


Bornstein, R.F. (2010). Psychoanalytic theory as a unifying framework for 21st century personality assessment. Psychoanalytic psychology. 27(2), 133-152.

Bradley, E.L. (2014). Choice theory and reality theory: An overview. International Journal of Choice Theory and Reality Theory. 34(1), 6-13.

European Association for Gestalt Therapy. (2006). Code of ethics and professional practice. / Retrieved from

Jacobs, L. (2010). Prologue: 'From the radical center': The heart of Gestalt therapy. Gestalt Review. 14 (1), 24-28.

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