Counseling Psychology

views updated May 21 2018

Counseling Psychology


Counseling psychology, a specialty within the area broadly designated as applied psychology, is not primarily an entitative science but draws heavily upon the basic and applied fields of psychology and upon other behavioral sciences for its foundations (Berdie 1959). It uses concepts, tools, and techniques that are also used by other specialty groups—notably industrial and personnel, clinical, and school psychology. It is, however, most appropriately viewed as the application of psychological and behavioral science knowledge in the form of a unique personal service furnished by professional practitioners with special qualifications. As such a specialty the most important characteristic of counseling psychology is its focus on the decisions and plans that individuals must make in order to play productive roles in their social environments. It is irrelevant whether the person receiving professional assistance is sick or well, normal or abnormal, handicapped or whole—that is to say he is a client and not a patient. In counseling psychology the emphasis is on further development as an individual; its concern is the identification and enhancement of possibilities and potentialities (American Psychological Association 1961).

Other important defining characteristics of counseling psychology include the following: (a) a primary focus on normal people; (b) service that is available throughout the life span; (c) emphasis on the individual’s strengths and assets; (d) emphasis on cognitive elements, especially where choice and decision are involved, with rationality and reason stressed; (e) the dealing with personality difficulties in the context of the total goals, plans, and roles of the individual; (f) the giving of full consideration to situational and environmental factors, with emphasis on the utilization of environmental resources and on environmental modification where judged necessary.

Basically, counseling psychology is concerned with the choices, decisions, and plans that every individual must make, as contrasted, for example, with clinical psychology, which is largely concerned with the problems and difficulties that some individuals face (Sundberg & Tyler 1962). This distinction is demonstrated by the historic and continuing emphasis on vocational counseling as a major element in establishing the unique identity of counseling psychology (Brayfield 1963).

Historical background. Counseling psychology (it came to be so designated in the early 1950s) evolved historically under a variety of influences. The first, vocational guidance, began in this century under the auspices of social welfare agencies and took shape around 1909 with the writings of Frank Parsons (1909), who described vocational guidance as a process of vocational orientation, individual analysis, and counseling; primary focus was upon the collection and dissemination of occupational information in the absence of useful methods of individual appraisal and theories and techniques of interviewing (Brewer 1942).

At about the same time the scientific study of individual differences, sparked by James McKeen Cattell, and the development of psychometric devices got under way. Psychometric efforts yielded useful measures of individual differences in occupationally significant aptitudes and interests by the middle 1920s. In the early 1930s large-scale programs of vocational guidance—as developed by Donald G. Paterson (see Paterson & Darley 1936) for the Minnesota Employment Stabilization Institute and at the Adjustment Service in New York— demonstrated the practicality of professional counseling based on the available psychological knowledge. During this period the student counseling program established at the University of Minnesota—under the leadership of Paterson, Edmund G. Williamson, and later John G. Darley—set a pattern which has been widely emulated in colleges and universities (Williamson & Darley 1937).

In the 1940s, personality and learning theories and the increasing interest of psychologists in psychotherapy and practice, particularly under the influence of Carl R. Rogers (1942), helped shape the course of counseling psychology. Psychodynamic interpretations of behavior and an accompanying concern with psychopathology contributed to the emerging specialty.

New elements were introduced in the early 1950s, when the ideas and findings of developmental and social psychology were recognized as directly relevant to counseling. The psychology of careers, as formulated by Donald E. Super (1957), took on a new dimension when viewed in this context. Gradually this approach has been extended by Milton E. Hahn (1963) and others to include the major events of the entire life span—including the formation of a family, participation in community and leisure-time activities, adaptation to cultural changes, and retirement.

Psychological foundations. The most important foundations for counseling psychology, as it has evolved under these influences, are found in differential psychology and psychometric theory; basic processes of learning, perception, motivation, and emotion; personality theory and dynamics; developmental psychology; and in social psychology along with selected aspects of economics, sociology, and anthropology. The selective emphasis and organization of concepts and materials from these areas is the distinctive contribution of counseling psychology as a substantive field of knowledge (Pepinsky & Pepinsky 1954).

Although counseling psychologists draw upon a wide range of psychological and behavioral science literature, one mark of the development of the field is the publication of the Journal of Counseling Psychology, which began in 1954.

Counseling is best understood as a process including assessment and counseling per se. Assessment includes the systematic collection, organization, and interpretation of information about a person and his situation. Counseling is the process in which a professionally trained person and his client relate the materials brought to light by the assessment process to the choices and decisions confronting the client in his formation of goals and life plans, in essence providing a learning and problem-solving setting for the client in which the crucial element is the relationship established between counselor and client. This constructive relationship is characterized by such words as friendly, accepting, sincere, and confidential as viewed by the client. The establishment of such a relationship constitutes a real test of counseling skill; it provides the psychological environment in which the special knowledge and understanding of the counselor can best be utilized by the client in making the choices and decisions that will give full play to his potentialities (Tyler 1953).

Although face-to-face counseling with individuals is the heart of counseling psychology, the counseling psychologist also plays an active role in exploring and coordinating community resources such as placement, habilitative and social services, and educational opportunities in order to provide a comprehensive and effective service for his clients. Increasingly the counseling psychologist is in demand as a consultant to local and state agencies and institutions concerned with human welfare and effectiveness.

Training and qualifications. It is customary to define the counseling psychologist as a person who has completed training in psychology, with a concentration in counseling psychology, at the level of the doctor of philosophy degree. Recommended standards for training psychologists at the doctoral level were published by the Division of Counseling and Guidance (now Division of Counseling Psychology) of the American Psychological Association in 1952 (1952a). Additional reports from the same source have made recommendations for practicum training and internships (American Psychological Association 1952b; 1960). In 1964 the division published the report of a conference on professional preparation of counseling psychologists, which made recommendations for further improvements in training (Conference on the Professional Preparation of Counseling Psychologists 1964).

In the United States approximately 48 universities offer graduate training at the doctoral level in what is essentially counseling psychology. Of these programs approximately half have met the standards required for accreditation by the Education and Training Board of the American Psychological Association (1958). Although some individual changes have occurred, there has been little growth in approved programs since the first listing in 1955, which included 23 departments. Approved programs vary in their administrative sponsorship and essential nature: about one-third are in departments of psychology and are undifferentiated from the clinical psychology program; about one-third are in psychology departments but differentiated from clinical psychology; and the remainder are jointly administered by a department of psychology and either a department of education or of educational psychology.

The most distinctive recognition of qualifications and competence which can be accorded a counseling psychologist is the diplomate status conferred by the American Board of Examiners in Professional Psychology (1953). These diplomates number slightly in excess of 250.

In 1965, 1,500 was a reasonable estimate of the number of doctoral-level counseling psychologists employed in the United States. Although counseling psychologists work in a variety of settings, approximately 60 per cent of them are found in colleges and universities, where they are engaged in counseling, teaching, research, and administration. About 10 per cent, the next largest group, are employed by the Veterans Administration. Smaller proportions are found in community counseling agencies, public schools, business and industry, city, state, and federal agencies including rehabilitation services, and private practice.

Although the number of counseling psychologists is limited—and only 40 to 50 are produced annually—counseling psychology has an extensive and important impact on the general field of counseling. The major share of direct counseling in public schools, rehabilitation agencies, state employment services, and community agencies is offered by nonpsychologists (Brayfield 1961). A substantial share of their formal preparation, however, is based on materials developed or made readily available by counseling psychologists who provide the research undergirdings of practice, the intellectual leadership, and frequently the supervision and administration of counseling services. The outlook for nondoctoral counselors is the requirement of two full years of graduate training that will provide substantial amounts and kinds of instruction in psychology (Wrenn 1962).

The major locus of counseling psychology is in the United States, particularly with respect to the numbers of practitioners. However, there has been increasing interest in the field in other countries. Great Britain has produced a considerable amount of relevant research, especially in the field of vocational guidance. French psychologists have made contributions in recent years, and there are important developments in India and Japan.

Arthur H. Brayfield

[Directly related are the entriesClinical psychology; Educational psychology; industrial relations, article onIndustrial and business psychology; Mental disorders, treatment of; Vocational rehabilitation. Other relevant material may be found inInterviewing; Occupations and careers; Personality measurement.]


American Board of Examiners in Professional Psychology 1953 The Certification of Advanced Specialists in Professional Psychology. Washington: American Psychological Association.

American Psychological Association, Division of Counseling and Guidance, Committee on Counselor Training 1952a Recommended Standards for Training Counseling Psychologists at the Doctorate Level. American Psychologist 7:175–181.

American Psychological Association, Division of Counseling and Guidance, Committee on Counselor Training 1952b The Practicum Training of Counseling Psychologists. American Psychologist 7: 182–188.

American Psychological Association, Division of Counseling Psychology, Committee on Current Status 1961 The Current Status of Counseling Psychology. Unpublished manuscript.

American Psychological Association, Division of Counseling Psychology, Committee on Internship Standards 1960 Recommended Standards for Internships in Counseling Psychology. Unpublished manuscript.

American Psychological Association, Education and Training Board 1958 Criteria for Evaluating Training Programs in Clinical or in Counseling Psychology. American Psychologist 2:59–60.

Berdie, Ralph F. 1959 Counseling. Annual Review of Psychology 10:345–370.

Brayfield, Arthur H. 1961 Vocational Counseling Today. Pages 22–58 in E. G. Williamson (editor), Vocational Counseling: A Reappraisal in Honor of Donald G. Paterson. Minnesota Studies in Student Personnel Work, No. 11. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

Brayfield, Arthur H. 1963 Counseling Psychology. Annual Review of Psychology 14:319–350.

Brewer, John M. 1942 History of Vocational Guidance. New York: Harper.

Conference on the Professional Preparation of Counseling Psychologists, Columbia University 1964 The Professional Preparation of Counseling Psychologists: Report of the 1964 Grey stone Conference. New York: Columbia Univ., Teachers College, Bureau of Publications.

Hahn, Milton E. 1963 Psychoevaluation: Adaptation-Distribution-Adjustment. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Parsons, Frank 1909 Choosing a Vocation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Paterson, Donald G.; and Darley, John G. 1936 Men, Women and Jobs: A Study in Human Engineering. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

Pepinsky, Harold B.; and Pepinsky, Pauline N. 1954 Counseling: Theory and Practice. New York: Ronald Press.

Rogers, Carl R. 1942 Counseling and Psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Sundberg, Norman D.; and Tyler, Leona E. 1962 Clinical Psychology. New York: Appleton.

Super, Donald E. 1957 The Psychology of Careers. New York: Harper.

Tyler, Leona E. (1953) 1961 The Work of the Counselor. 2d ed. New York: Appleton.

Williamson, Edmund G.; and Darley, John G. 1937 Student Personnel Work. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Wrenn, Charles G. 1962 The Counselor in a Changing World. Washington: American Personnel and Guidance Association.

Counseling Psychology

views updated May 23 2018

Counseling psychology

An area of psychology which focuses on nurturing the development potential of relatively healthy individuals in all areas of their lives.

While the counseling psychologist may diagnose, assess, and treat adjustment difficulties, they often address problems which are more moderate than those encountered by the clinical psychologist. Clients of counseling psychologists are people who need help coping with the stresses of everyday life, and the focus is on strengthening their existing resources rather than overcoming disorders or deficits in particular areas. The counseling psychologist may use a number of tools in treating clients, including psychotherapy , workshops in such areas as assertiveness training or communications skills, and psychological assessments. These tests are used to measure a person's aptitudes, interests, or personality characteristics and provide feedback which can facilitate the counseling process. Clients may be treated individually, in group therapy , or in family groups, depending on the nature of the problems and the specialization of the counselor. In contrast to a clinical psychotherapist, the counseling psychologist may intervene in the client's immediate environment . Also, unlike traditional psychotherapy, the relationship between counselor and client may extend to situations outside the office setting.

Counseling psychology has its roots in education and vocational guidance and has been closely linked with the use of mental testing, which is central to these fields. It has traditionally followed an educational rather than a medical model, considering those it helps as clients rather than patients. Its educational context is also evident in its emphasis on developmental models derived from the work of Erik Erikson , Robert Havighurst, Daniel Levinson, Roger Gould, and other theorists. Counseling psychologists work on helping clients remove obstacles to optimal development. A focus on adult development is helpful to many types of clients, such as women returning to the work force, or individuals undertaking second careers. Counseling psychology, paralleling a growing trend among health care providers, also advocates preventive as well remedial approaches to problems, seeking to identify "at risk" individuals and groups and intervene before a crisis occurs.

Of the psychotherapeutic models available to counseling psychology at its inception in the 1940s, Rogerian, or client-centered therapy has had the most influence. Carl Rogers , whose methods were more readily understood and adapted by counselors than those of Sigmund Freud , had a lasting influence on the techniques of vocational counseling and counseling psychology, which focus more on the process than on the outcome of the counseling relationship. Two other theoretical models that have been especially influential are decision-making theory and the social influence model. The former attempts to teach clients procedures and strategies for effective decision making, including such techniques as weighing the factors in a decision according to a numerical point system. Decision-making is related to counseling psychology's overall emphasis on problem solving.

Social influence theory, currently one of the prevailing theories in the field, involves the counselor's influence over the client based on how the client perceives him or her in terms of such factors as credibility and degree of expertise. Researchers have studied the behaviors that contribute to the counselor's social influence; the ways in which social influence can be maximized; and social influence in relation to such factors as race, gender, age, and social class. Over the years, the fields of counseling psychology and psychotherapy have begun to overlap as clinical psychologists have concentrated more on relatively healthy clients and counselors have grown to rely more heavily on psychotherapeutic techniques. There has also been a growing overlap between counseling and social work, as social workers have moved in the direction of therapeutic counseling themselves. Thus, there has been an overlap between these professions.

Most counselor training programs are offered by colleges of education rather than psychology departments. As the establishment of credentials has become more and more important (particularly with regard to payments by insurance companies), counseling psychology programs are offering (and requiring) an increased amount of training in basic psychology, which can include rigorous internship programs. Counseling psychology has its own division, Division 17, of the American Psychological Association , and its own professional publications, including The Counseling Psychologist, a quarterly, and the Journal of Counseling Psychology, which appears bimonthly.

Further Reading

Brammer, Lawrence M. Therapeutic Psychology: Fundamentals of Counseling and Psychotherapy. 5th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1989.

Ronch, Judah L, William van Ornum, and Nicholas C. Stilwell, eds. The Counseling Sourcebook: A Practical Reference on Contemporary Issues. New York: Crossroad, 1994.

Vernon, Ann, ed. Counseling Children and Adolescents. Denver, CO: Love, 1993.

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