Psychology Primer: Counseling Styles

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Psychology Primer
By Cyndi Lupo, BA Psych

Tutorial 1: Theory

Tutorial 2: Application

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Counseling Styles

There are more styles of counseling than there are theories of psychology. Hopefully your study of Tutorial #1 has given you some time to understand some of the varying ways that the counseling session can be approached. If we take a moment and go back and read the sim I provided previously, I would like to point out that the ACH varied his approach and style as the conversation progressed. This is in keeping with his more eclectic and pragmatic approach. This is also my style. There are others as well.


Some counselors just allow the client to talk in a flow of consciousness manner, and comment very little, in the belief that often times the client already knows the answer to their problem. Other counselors are very formal, seated behind their desks in an authoritative manner, almost cross examining the client. Others, like the ACH have a more multidisciplinary approach, seated behind the desk but utilizing supportive posturing. Deanna Troi on the other hand was fond of sitting next to her client at a ninety-degree angle. Sigmund Freud was fond of having his clients recline on a couch sitting just to the rear and side of the client where he could make notes without the client seeing him.

Reality Therapy

Some forms of counseling, often called “reality therapy” are confrontational, and prone to interrupting the client to seize upon a particular revelatory statement. Reality therapists are also prone to challenging assumptions or statements with provocative statements of their own, such as “You don’t really believe that”, or “Get out of your head. Stop telling me what you think and tell me what you are feeling”.

Another technique employed by reality therapists involves allowing their disbelief or skepticism to show on their faces, or sitting for prolonged periods of uncomfortable silence, after which the client inevitably asks if they are going to say something, and the RT therapist says something to the effect of, “I’m just waiting for you to cut the crap and say something meaningful”.

Gestalt Therapy

Other counselors, particularly those practicing the more humanistic “Gestalt” type of therapy are more apt to let down some of their “distancing” techniques by mirroring the client’s posture; making observations to the client about their affect, maybe a frown that came upon their face, and rather than inquiring about what was said, ask about what was being felt when they made that face.

Reflective Listening

Some counselors deconstruct the client’s statements, using a technique called “reflective listening” which involves a lot of statements like “What I’m hearing you say is…” wherein they either amplify what was being said, or sometimes introduce a paradoxical interpretation designed to elicit a response which confirms or denies what the counselor’s “interpretation” is of their statement. This leads to further examination of what the client is really saying, or trying to conceal behind their actual statements.

One counseling style utilized by the ACH in the example was to adopt, temporarily, the world view of the client and use that to help the client reason through what they are experiencing, or point out the logical or illogical assumptions presented therein. Some will give direct answers to the client’s questions about “what do you think this means”, based upon their understanding of their particular school of thought, while others will refuse to do so and simply put the question back to the client as to what their interpretation of the situation is.

The fact of the matter is, there is not any one technique that is necessarily right or wrong, nor should you feel compelled to adopt any one method.