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Course and Assignment Manual

Welcome to Psychology 406: Introduction to Theories of Counselling and Psychotherapy. This Athabasca University course introduces a range of theoretical perspectives and provides a historical context for the current practice of counselling psychology. As you will discover, there is no one “correct” model for understanding human behaviour or the therapeutic process of enabling change and growth. Each counsellor must develop her or his personal philosophical and theoretical framework and approach. For some, this involves adhering predominantly to one of the major theoretical models; others take a more eclectic stance, drawing on concepts and techniques from a number of approaches. A second challenge to be faced by each counsellor is reconciling the “science of psychology with the art of the individual practitioner”1 in a way that allows the counsellor to make optimum use of personal qualities and characteristics in facilitating the counselling process.

Psychology 406 is designed to encourage you to think critically about the various theoretical approaches by comparing them to one another, watching for common themes, and reflecting on your own personal perspective as it relates to human nature, counselling goals, and change processes. It will likely be premature for you to attempt to establish a clear, personal theoretical stance upon completion of this course. The process of training as a professional counsellor or psychologist requires several years of course work and supervised practica at the graduate level. However, it is anticipated that this course will assist you to begin the process of narrowing down the type of professional “road map” that will best fit with your personal identity, experience, worldview, and style of interaction.

The title of the course, Introduction to Theories of Counselling and Psychotherapy, warrants brief explanation. The terms counselling and psychotherapy tend to be used interchangeably in much of the current literature, as they are by the author of the course text. However, these terms identify related but distinct processes. The confusion stems from the blurring of the professional fields of counselling psychology and clinical psychology2. Historically, counselling has its roots in the vocation guidance movement. The counselling process is typically identified as following an educational or health promotion model and has focused primarily on “normal” individuals who are facing developmental, career, or other challenges in their daily lives. The term psychotherapy, on the other hand, has been more often associated with the assessment and remediation of mental illness from the medical model perspective that has characterized clinical psychology. The blurring of the terms in recent decades has emerged as counsellors and counselling psychologists have expanded their range of activities to include psychotherapy, and clinical psychologists have simultaneously begun to work with populations of relatively healthy individuals.

The theoretical models described in this course form the foundation for both the process of counselling and the process of psychotherapy. The lack of clear lines of distinction between these terms and the professional streams they are associated with, however, means that none of the theoretical models are exclusively linked with either perspective. As you review the assumptions about human nature, the assertions about how problems develop, the role of the therapist (a term some counsellors would also choose to avoid), and the nature of the change process associated with each approach, bear in mind the distinction between these processes. Some theoretical models intuitively have a more coherent fit with the assumptions of clinical psychotherapy (e.g., the psychodynamic approaches); others are commonly viewed as more consistent with counselling roles (e.g., cognitive–behavioral approaches). What is clear from the text is that few counsellors or psychotherapists adhere exclusively to one model, but rather build a personal framework that is consistent with their values, their worldview, and the professional roles they assume.

This Course and Assignment Manual provides you with essential information about the course outline and structure, the course materials, the evaluation processes, and the procedures to follow to complete the course successfully. Before you begin, please read this Manual carefully. If you have any questions about the course itself, or how to proceed with your studies, please contact your tutor or the course coordinator.

Good luck with your studies!

1 Braebeck, M. M., & Welfel, E. R. (1985). Counseling theory: Understanding the trend toward eclecticism from a developmental perspective. Journal of Counseling and Development, 63, 343–348.

2 Corsini, R. J., & Auerbach, A. J. (Eds.). (1996). Concise encyclopedia of psychology (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

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