Personal Counseling Theory Paper from a Christian Perspective
Rodney L. Mulhollem
This paper will examine five overviews of the author’s personal theories of counseling. These theories include: model of philosophical assumptions and key concepts, model of human personality, model of health, model of abnormality, and model of psychotherapy. Model of philosophical assumptions and key concepts includes the capability for adults to have the ability to choose. This ability is influenced by many factors including: genetic endowment, biological influences, cognitive plasticity and, what Bandura calls, hierarchical dual control mechanisms.
Human personality is a construct of generational or unchangeable genetic endowments, environmental social influences, biological influences including: psychoneuroncology and other neurological constructs that change over time and personal influences, which can consist of all or some of the following: cognitive plasticity, learning, and supernatural influences. Model of health includes the author’s belief of what is health, what are signs of health, and what promotes health. Models of psychotherapy include: the author’s role of psychotherapy, what this process looks like, and examples of techniques and situations for these techniques.
Keywords: genetic endowments, bibliotherapy, human agency, hierarchical dual control mechanisms, models of personality, models of abnormality, dysfunctional behavior
Personal Counseling Techniques from a Christian Perspective
Philosophical Assumptions and Key Concepts
This author’s philosophical assumption supports aspects from all currently studied theorists. In reference to the behavior theory, people are influenced by central constructs, such as classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observation. This type of conditioning is believed to be more influential during earlier developmental periods. People also have needs, such as wanting to be loved and positive relationships per person-centered and existential theory. However, this author believes that when a person is in a situation, such as fight or flight, motivational factors change to instinctual, where biological needs are primary for survival as represented in Gestalt’s philosophy. Philosophical theories that this author does not agree with would include the belief that humans are foundationally good, such as represented with Roger’s person-centered and Glasser’s reality philosophies.
In general, people process questions, such as their personal value, reason for existence, and identity. It is this author’s opinion these can be fulfilled from many aspects including: personal goals, environmental influences, social connections, family, and religious factors. It is this author’s opinion that a person cannot be complete without a personal relationship with our Creator through Christ Jesus. Like Eclecticism, this author believes no presented theory is adequate (Jones and Butman, 1991). With the infusion of the sin nature that everyone is born with, it is impossible to lack a level of abnormality. Sin is more than a more than a deliberate rebellion against our Creator but also a “state of being” (Jones and Butman, 1991)
Model of Personality
The author believes there is no single current theory that explains the model of human personality. Through personal study and experience, four stages are believed to be involved with the maturation of a human being. These stages start at birth and build upon each other as the person grows physically. It is important to note that because there is opportunity for one to change and grow, not all stages are incorporated in each person, as some are genetically endowments and others are personal choice. It is important to also note that this author believes the individual is ingeniously designed with parts that are genetic endowments, as well as allows environmental influences, which actually mold neurological biologic factors in early childhood, as well as these factors influence cognitive processes through emerging primacy of human agency in biosocial coevolution (Mulhollem, 2010). Lastly, humans have the ability to change their personality through cognitive plasticity which includes: human agency, hierarchical dual control mechanisms, and supernatural influences.
Generational or Unchangeable Genetic Endowments.
Generational or unchangeable genetic endowments are constructs that are hard-wired into a person at birth. There are many perspectives on how this occurs. However, some examples of theorists that support this theory include: Sigmund and Anna Freud, Adler, Beck, Jung, Klein, Horney, Sullivan, Glasser, and Crabb, to name a few (Crabb, 1986, Kihlstrom & Haracheiwicz, 1990, Feist & Feist, 2009, McMinn, 1996, Murdock, 2009, & Mulhollem, 2010). This author believes that this level of personality is part of the hard-wiring God created through genetic manipulation at conception; in other words, the unique God-created design of genetic predisposition that is contributed by both parents.
Environmental Including Social Influences.
Environmental influences, including social influences, are brought upon an individual immediately after birth. This construct is part of the influence of a person throughout their lifetime. Manipulations of environmental influences are greatest in early childhood, as the cognitive processes of choice are both limited and challenged by parental influences (Wilson, 2001). Theorists who support environmental and social influences include: Crabb, Rogers, Bandura, Skinner, Rollo, Maslow, May, and Bugemtal, to name a few (Crabb, 1986, Feist and Feist, 2009, Murdock, 2009, Mulhollem, 2010).
Biological Influences including Psychoneuroncology and other Neurological Constructs.
This author believes the third level of construct of personality is biological influences. As a child grows, sensory neurons, motor neurons, and interneurons maturate and change (Carlson, 2011). Through myelination of axons, the brain is able to learn and adapt depending on outside influences. This process happens much more quickly in children as the brain is physically adapting to its surrounds but has been proven to continue adaptation throughout a lifetime (Carlson, 2011). Allport called this “personal disposition”, or a general neurological structure that is adaptive to surrounding (Jones and Butman, 1991).
Personal Influences including Cognitive Plasticity, Human Agency, and Supernatural Influences.
The fourth stage this author believes to be part of personality development is personal influences. Generally stated, this is the ability to change based upon choices by the person themselves. This part of personality construction can be divided into two areas. First would include cognitive plasticity and human agency. As adults, we have the ability to make choices that we could not make as children. Our world is no longer controlled completely by parental influences (Wilson, 2001). Bandura describes human agency as “people are self-regulating, proactive, self-reflective, and self-organized… (having) the power to influence their own actions” (Feist and Feist, 2009).
The second part of this construct includes supernatural influences. United States demographics show that 96% of people believe in God, with 76-78% claiming to be Christians (Mulhollem, 2011). Thus, allowing the understanding that this can be an important part of a client’s life. This belief is also supported by theorists including Crabb and Kierkegaard. It is also important to consider cultural background, as many hold very strong to their faith. Some of these cultures include: German, Irish, Scottish and Latino, to name a few (McGoldrick, Giordano, and Garcia-Preto, 2005, Hays & Erford, 2010).
Model of Health
There are many perspectives of model of health. Theorists, such as Adler and Glasser, believe harmony with environmental including other people and their relationships, as the model of health, respectively (Murdock, 2009). Others take more of a cognitive approach including: rational beliefs (Ellis), psychological equilibrium with the environment (Perls), and information processing (Beck)(Murdock, 2009, Feist and Feist, 2009). Thus, all can overlap is some regards.
It is this author’s opinion that all the listed theories have a level of truth. We are extremely complex and to narrow a model of health down to one factor would be lacking and inadequate. Jones and Butman (1991) also relay this belief when stating the “inadequacies in all the approaches” (p.382). This author believes there are different levels of model of health. A strong dictator of what is considered healthy is culturally based. For example, if an individual does not possess a certain level of social skills, they can be deemed unhealthy. This is culturally predicted and thus, influences how an individual can view themselves. Since man is a social creature, social and cultural compatibility is important. Thus, a balance is important. The ability to convert from a state of equilibrium to equilibrium when factors in life change, is vital for a healthy individual. Jones and Butman (1991) state that, “healthy individuals are ones who have enough conscious awareness of their basic issues to have self-control” (p.71). In addition, a healthy sense of self value is important. As a Christian, this author believes an understanding of personal value in relationship to biblical information is needed for an optimal level of health.
Model of Abnormality
Like the model of health, the model of abnormality has many perspectives. All presented perspectives can be boiled down into the inability to change, whether this is from the fear of death (existential theory), previously learned behavior (original behavior theory), irrational or illogical beliefs (rational emotive behavior theory and cognitive theory), or a lack of self-congruence (person-center theory). All of the theories are focused on the person and a deficiency, whether it is identifying personal situations or recognizing unhealthy cognitive processing. Thus, this author finds Bandura’s Cognitive Theory to be attractive, as it incorporates numerous perspectives including: positive and negative reinforcement, punishment, and self-reinforcement or, what he calls, triadic reciprocal causation (Mulhollem, 2010). Bandura describes a combination of all aspects to be influential. However, the individual has the ability to self-regulate and use cognitive processing, combining different perspectives, to make decisions. Thus, Bandura believes the primary reasons for abnormality are causation, depression, phobia, and aggression (Mulhollem, 2011).
However, this author believes that much of what is considered a model of health is determined by culture and its values. The author’s opinion also focusses around personal value but suggest personal value is in relationship to a biblical worldview. Lack of balance in these can result in abnormality. As the balance is jeopardized, self-regulation and cognitive processing start to fall apart which can result in destroying the balance that keeps a person healthy. The more this is jeopardized, the greater the level of abnormality. When levels of abnormality reach a pivotal point where life becomes unstable, a model of psychotherapy is administered to re-establish this balance.
Model of Psychotherapy
The model of psychotherapy has much to do with the situation and the client. In other words, if the counseling session is more than one person or a group, different techniques will need to be used. However, there are general techniques that can be used, no matter the situation. First and foremost, this author believes the value of the client is important. In showing the client they are valuable, a relationship can be established. A trust factor is a key to therapy that this author believes to be foundational for success. Without a trust relationship, the probability of change is minimal. Once this trust factor is established, other techniques can be incorporated.
Choice in techniques used in therapy is directly impacted by insurance and how much time a person is allotted. In addition to the therapeutic relationship, it is important for the counselor, himself, to be in a psychological position that eludes countertransference. For example, if a client comes in with a marital problem consisting of abuse and the counselor previously experienced a similar situation, it is possible for the counselor to project their feelings to the client.
This author also feels different techniques are needed depending on the client’s issue. For example, if the client is experiencing extreme anxiety and depression, the anxiety will need to be considered immediately. Techniques, such as behavior theory of relaxation, are important. In dealing with phobias, mental imagery and exposure techniques can be considered. Ration emotive behavior theory’s focusses of bibliotherapy, reframing, rational coping statements, and rational-irrational dialogues have been found to be successful in the fields of anger management and emotional problems (Dryden, 2008, Wolf, 2101). In reference to general techniques this author finds attractive include: Gestalts taking responsibility, Behavior’s reinforcement rewards, modeling, and self-self-control, Cognitive Behavior’s questioning, downward arrow, and problem solving are also among favorites.
In general, this author’s model of psychotherapy could be summed up as first establishing and building a strong relational bond with the client. The client-counselor relationship needs to be a combination of different perspectives. It is important for the counselor to understand that the client’s situation is their own story and what they believe, whether healthy or unhealthy. The client knows their situation and is an expert in their unique circumstances. However, it is also important for a respect level to be established by the client for the counselor, as the counselor is the one trained with the skills to walk beside the client and help them through their journey. This relationship is equal, yet both respect each other’s person’s qualities and attributes being brought to the counseling session. Helping the client to view their past, present, and future situations is important, although depending on the condition, there is a different level of prominence per area.
In this paper, construction of the author’s personal theory is broken down into five sections including the philosophical assumptions and key concepts, model of personality, health, abnormality, and psychotherapy. When considering the philosophical assumptions and key concepts, the author considered the following therapy philosophies: behavior, person-centered, existential, gestalt, and reality therapy constructs. The conclusion of this author agrees with the eclecticism, that none of the presented philosophies are complete. This author believes that, in general, people process questions such as their personal value, reason for existence, and identity. Change and growth is a lifelong process and like eclecticism suggest, a person cannot reach completion without a personal relationship with his Creator.
In reference to a model of personality, again the author agrees that all presented theories have qualities but are incomplete. This author believes there are four major sections of personality development in which some evolve through time and others are decisions made by the individual. These section or stages are generational, environmental, biological, and personal. Generational is predisposition by genetic factors. Environmental is change due to outside constructs that influence the individual. Biological is the actual neurological changes made during maturation and growth of the human brain. And personal included a combination of cognitive plasticity, human agency, and forward thinking. Supernatural influences include cultural faith and religious beliefs and the internal change by the Holy Spirit. Maturity in all these stages presents a model of health which is constantly changing.
A model of health can be simply stated as balance. Of the theories presented, harmony with the environment and others creating a psychological equilibrium is most common. This can also fall under some of the concepts of rational beliefs and correct information processing. However, the author points out that much of what is considered a model of health is determined by culture and its values. The author’s opinion also focusses around personal but not based primarily on culture and environmental factors. Lack of balance in these can result in abnormality. Jeopardizing a healthy balance of can result in destroying the equilibrium that keeps a person healthy. The more this is jeopardized and a stage of disequilibrium is not counteracted, the greater the level of abnormality. When levels of abnormality reach a pivotal point where life becomes unstable, a model of psychotherapy is administered to re-establish this balance.
There are many excellent techniques presented in all the presented theories. The author pointed out examples of different techniques for different examples. There is no specific technique that is a fix all or magic bullet. However, what has proven to be most effective in any level of success in psychotherapy is the therapeutic bond.
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