In my work, I utilize various modalities and theoretical bases. Outlined below is three therapeutic philosophies that guide my practice and my work in Counselling.
Person-centered therapy was created by Carl Rogers in the 1940s. Person-centered psychotherapy is characterized as part of the humanistic school of therapies. The premise behind PC therapy is that humans are naturally and inherently good. In Roger’s opinion, human behavior results from a need to grow and develop to one’s full potential. Each one of us is seen has having the strengths and resources to grow and become a better person. This self-actualizing tendency is critical to the nature of the individual to grow and maximize oneself.
In the therapeutic relationship, there is to be acceptance and liking towards the client, with full acceptance and a positive regard to where he/she is in the moment. It involves the deep understanding of the thoughts and feelings with a sense of transparency on the part of the therapist. All of us have a need for positive regard, which motivates individuals to seek love from those around us. The therapist fulfills part of this need.
Counsellor and client are seen as equal, with the therapist acting as a companion in the process. Rogers puts forward the idea of congruence, or genuineness, being an important part of the therapeutic relationship. Unconditional positive regard is a cornerstone of this therapy, with a full acceptance and caring attitude. Empathy, which is achieved when one individual perceives another person as if he were that person, is also a huge part of PC therapy, with the therapist “temporarily living in the other’s life, moving about in it delicately without making judgements.” (Rogers, 1980, p142). Feelings and emotions are often reflected back to the client, with the therapist guiding the client to find his own solutions.
Gestalt Therapy was created by Fritz Perls and is well known for its famous empty chair technique. Shaped by Perl’s background in theatre, and influenced by Reichian body therapy and existentialist theory, Perls eventually demonstrated GT on stage in front of large groups.
The humanistic/existential philosophy begins with the holistic idea that humans are growth oriented and cannot be separated from their environments, nor divided into parts such as body and mind. Gestalt Therapy takes its influence from the German word ‘gestalt’, which is translated into ‘form, figure, structure, configuration’. In this therapy, the focus is on the ability to perceive the whole configuration – our personalities are a result of the totality of a number of parts that make up your wholeness all together.
GT emphasizes individual responsibility and choice. The focus is on the growth process, with an emphasis on spontaneity and creativity. We aim to achieve that state of childlike innocence – children are naturals at gestalt – they live in the present moment and are free to “be” -until they grow up and are trained out of this state. As adults, we forget how to be ourselves. Gestalt provides opportunities to move past the fear of society’s judgement and to integrated disowned parts into our being. Conformity to society’s rules is resisted and it is expected that healthy behavior will be in conflict with societal norms at times.
Using the arts to create the bridge between inner and outer realities, evoking messages for the benefit of the client, we discover our tendency toward completing wholes and achieving closure of unfinished parts of the whole.
Depth Psychology is the study of unconscious mental processes and motives in psychoanalytic practice. Created by Carl Jung, it is a therapeutic approach that explores the unconscious and transpersonal human experience, involving the study of dreams and archetypes. Like Gestalt and Person-Centered Therapy, Depth Psychology does not pathologize. As a strength affirming theory, it focuses on the psyche, human development, personality formation and the process of opening up to ones’ unconscious potential. Through inner and outer exploration, one explores a sense of purpose in life.
For Jung, the psyche is understood in the process of development. Maturity is the focus and Jung saw the goal of adult development as pertinent. Therapy as an exploration of dreams, fantasies and feelings, becomes the gateway to discovering unactualized parts of the psyche and bringing them into conscious awareness. It is through the imagination that the psyche expresses itself and gives access to the development of the Self. Jung developed many archetypes (a principle of the psyche) such as the Self, the Ego, the anima or animus. He brought us the concept of the ‘shadow”, which reflects the understanding of the personal unconscious.
Post-modern psychologist James Hillman takes over the work of Carl Jung in his concepts of imaginal psychology, presenting an aesthetic or poetic psychology. Pathology for Hillman is a process of “falling apart”, where the psyche experiences fragmentation. The solution is to allow emotions to manifest in their forms, through the awakening of the imagination. Hillman’s emphasis on multiplicity and diversity chooses to focus on “restoring the aesthetic dimension of life; beauty, not knowledge, is the ultimate therapeutic goal for Hillman.” (Principles and Practice of Expressive Arts Therapy, p54). Quality of life is seen as a function of the capacity of the imagination and prizes differences and variety above all. Finding a greater range of play is seen as essential to emphasizing helping individuals, with “possibilities for action are opened up” (Principles and Practice of Expressive Arts Therapy, p212) through the work of the imagination.
*Content taken from:
The Gestalt Art Experience by Janie Rhyne
Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy by Nancy Murdock
Principles and Practice of Expressive Arts Therapy by Paolo Knill/ Ellen Levine and Stephen Levine
CGJung Center online (http://www.cgjungcenter.org/clinical-services/what-is-depth-psychology/)