Monthly Archives: August 2014


Fortunately or unfortunately we are in a world where almost everyone is running after achieving ‘big’ and ‘great’ things. From the day a child is born to this world he is instructed and guided by his parents and elders to become a ‘big’ man one day. ‘Big’ here emphasizes the fact that one must be rich and one must get a good income and a renowned profession.

Indeed it is good to have expectations and aims in life. But instead of being big in your dreams at once, isn’t it good to think about ‘small’ things first? We always purposely or not, try to forget and neglect small and less important things in our lives as we always concentrate on big things which we can’t afford at times. Beauty of life depends on the quality and not on quantity of anything we do. A person can be happy by helping and comforting his friends or relations who are miserable, even with a few words. These must come from the very core of your heart naturally. Few words can do no harm to your wealth. But the happiness that both parties get cannot be explained and this adds beauty to life.

Undoubtedly, being ‘big’ in life means, being more and more sophisticated, complex and affected. But amazingly being small gives the idea of simplicity, contentment and the epitome of satisfaction in many ways. In addition one may misunderstand that small is ‘a bit’ in everything which is not true at all.

So why not be small and simple in life for a change?

 Dileesha Liyanage

Perspectives in Psychology and Counselling

Counselling can be defined as a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals. (American Counselling Association, 2010) In order to practice counselling, it is vital that the counsellors have a thorough understanding and learning of psychology and its theories. Psychology is an intriguing scientific study of the human mind and behaviour which has a diversity of perspectives, each presenting a unique way of interpreting human beings. For the purpose of this writing, we will be analyzing some of the widely used psychological perspectives in counselling, which will emphasize the necessity for counsellors to have a thorough understanding and learning of theories. The psychological perspectives are as follows;

  • Biological perspective
  • Psychodynamic perspective
  • Behavioural perspective
  • Humanistic perspective
  • Cognitive perspective

1.1 Biological perspective

Firstly, Biological psychology is the study of the physiological, evolutionary and developmental mechanisms of behaviour and experience devoted to studying brain functioning. (Kalat, 2007) It pays key attention to the areas of the nervous system, brain, vision, movement, sleep, reproductive behaviour, emotions, cognitive functions and disorders. The biological psychologist tries to study the animal roots of behaviour and experiences to genetics and physiology. The importance of studying this perspective for counsellors may appear as a latent function as the biological perspective depicts an image which bends more towards natural sciences and away from the conventional image of psychology and counselling. Yet the awareness of this field can be most advantageous to a counsellor. For an example let us envisage an instance where the counselor meets a new client who implies that he is suffering from depression. In order to identify whether the client is actually suffering from depression or whether it a level of stress or else is it a reaction which comes out due to another physiological condition, the understanding that the counselor has of sleep patterns, emotions, and disorders may prove beneficial. Or else if a client suffering from anorexia, schizophrenia or even a bipolar disorder, where the client may need medical attention, even to direct and understand the symptoms this understanding is important. This provides a basic understanding of the necessity of the biological perspective.

1.2 Psychodynamic perspective

However unlike the biological perspective, the psychodynamic perspective presents a different view. The psychodynamic perspective has its roots in the theories of Sigmund Freud. His studies focused on the belief that our emotions, thoughts and behaviour stem from the unacceptable thoughts from childhood that allow to influence the current thinking. These repressed thoughts and feelings eventually manifest as depression, fears and conflicts. The therapy is relationship-centred and is powered by our interactions with close friends and family. (Martin, 2013) The Psychodynamic perspective helps to understand the root cause of client problems and issues. But this can only be done if the counselor has a thorough understanding of the theoretical features, for an example in this perspective it is vital that the counselor is familiar with the stages of personality development, defense mechanisms, iceberg theory, and the techniques such as free association, transference and interpretation of resistance. If a client comes who is fixated in the oral stage, his behaviour brings out this condition. However the counselor would be able to recognize this only if he is aware of these theories. Even when assisting clients the therapeutic method would depend on the nature of the client’s condition and also the psychological orientation of the counselor. But if the counselor has a broad idea and capacity he has the potential to assist clients in a more effective manner. Even when it comes to problems like depression, anxiety, anger and social isolation, these can all be successfully treated and improved using some form of psychodynamic approach.

1.3 Behavioural perspective

Behaviourism on the other hand doesn’t stress the unconscious and does not place emphasis on gaining insight into early childhood experience. Instead this approach assumes that we have learnt our current behaviours and can learn new behaviours by applying the principles of behaviourism. Hence behavioral refers to a wide range of ideas, practices, and theories. On one end are radical behaviorists, focusing predominantly on learning principles and avoiding any mentalist concepts, such as thoughts. On the other end are cognitive behaviour theorists, like Meichenbaum, who emphasized mental processes in behavior. (Mitchell & Gibson, 2005) Behavioral approaches are designed to change unwanted or maladaptive behaviuor through the application of basic learning principals. Behavioural approaches maintain that both abnormal and normal behaviors are learned. Good behaviour is maintained by reinforcement and unwanted behavior can be eliminated by punishment. Behavior treatment approaches are based on these principles. When speaking of behaviourism three main theories are emphasized.

  1. Classical Conditioning of Pavlov
  2. Operant Conditioning of Skinner
  3. Social Learning/ Modeling of Bandura

Even for counselling the understanding of these theories is vital as they are applied in some of the therapeutic methods. For example systematic desensitization and flooding, both used to relieve from phobic behaviour have their origin in the theory of classical conditioning. Even the Operant conditioning technique, which allows the client to reach the extinction of a negative behaviour though reinforcement, follows the theoretical framework. So a counselor needs o be aware of these theories in order to practice counselling effectively.

1.4 Humanistic perspective

Humanistics believe in free will, that individuals whether consciously or unconsciously create their existence and if afforded the right circumstances can recreate their existence through change.  Most of the humanistic psychologists such as Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow believe that there is an inborn tendency in individuals to self actualize in order to fulfill their potential if they are afforded an environment conducive to growth. (Neukrug, 2003)  The humanistic approach provides a distinct method of counselling and focuses predominately on an individual’s unique, personal potential to explore creativity, growth, love and psychological understanding. The understanding of theoretical knowledge in humanistic psychology is extremely beneficial to clients as well as counselors because they are able to offer a non-judgmental, supportive and understanding service, in a safe and confidential environment. There are many different types of humanistic theories, of which the person centred theory which emphasize the necessity of congruence, empathy and unconditional positive regard from the side of the counselor can be considered one of the most significant of all theories. This empowers the counsellor to allow the client to grow in a positive manner, through genuine understanding and encouragement.

Let us assume if a client who has committed a number of rapes comes for counseling, the reaction of the counsellor and his behaviour would certainly frame the relationship between the two. If the counselor has a sound theoretical knowledge he has the potential to  use the technique of here and now, where the counselor can genuinely assist the client to reach his fullest potential by being non judgmental and supportive. Another theory that falls under humanistic perspective is the transactional analysis, which again would help counsellers. Based around a client’s self-development and personal growth, transactional analysis provides a connection between a client’s past and how this influence’s present decisions and choices. Transactional Analysis also acknowledges the three ego states that run through every relationship a person has with others. These are the Parent, Adult and Child ego states. (Martin, 2013)  The client is encouraged to look back over past decisions they have made, and to analyze and understand the consequences and subsequent direction. This form of humanistic approach to counselling also helps clients become more in tuned with their thinking and acting skills.


1.5 Cognitive perspective

Finally when speaking of cognitive perspective it is necessary to define cognition on the first place. Cognitions are thoughts, beliefs, and internal images that people have about events in their lives (Holden.1993b).Cognitive theories of counseling focus on these mental processes and their influence on mental health. A common premise of all cognitive theories is that how people think largely determines how they feel and behave. As Burns (1980) points out, “every hard feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking. Let us take Mahoney’s constructive approach for an example. According to this approach it challenges the assertion of objectivists that there is a single authenticated external reality. This allows the client to understand his/her unique ways of thinking and making sense of the world and helps clients to create new constructions that might work for them.

Another theory is Ellis Rational Emotive theory which is based on the belief that humans create psychological disturbances by thinking illogically and by maintaining a set of irrational beliefs. This uses a technique called uncovering the ABCs of personality framework which suggests that it was not the activating event(A) that caused emotional consequences(C) but the belief(B) about the event. (Fretz & Gelso, 2006) Such theories help the counsellor to encourage and assist the client by using his theoretical knowledge.

In conclusion the importance of having a thorough understanding of psychology and its perspectives for the purpose of counselling is paramount. Without this scientific knowledge it would be wrong to consider counselling as a profession because the specialty in a counsellor comes along with his expertise which is embedded by his understanding of psychology. It is true that not all perspectives have the same approach to issues but it is these differences that allow the counsellor to have a broad mind and assist the clients to overcome their difficulties while improving the effectiveness of true counselling.

Reference List

  • Mitchell, M. H., & Gibson, R. L. (2005). Counselling & Guidance. New Delhi: Prentice Hall of India
  • Neukrug, E. (2003). The World of the Counselor: An Introduction to the Counseling Profession. California: Brooks/Cole.

Nedha de Silva