Theoretical Approaches to Group Counseling
Amanda A. Benevides
As a group therapist, there are a variety of techniques to chose from to apply in a group setting. It is important as a professional to be properly trained in the technique or approach you are recommending for individuals, families or in a group. An approach I have chosen to present is the Humanistic approach. This approach involves different techniques that are based on a person-centered theory and it allows individuals to creatively express themselves. One of the techniques that i have used is psychodrama which allows clients to reflect their emotions through role play. This approach can be used for different age groups and populations such as adolescents, families, and refugees.
Humanistic psychology is concentrated on human potential and the individual’s unique personal experience. It can be described as holistic in the sense that it tends to be comprehensive and accepting of numerous theoretical traditions and therapeutic practices. The humanistic approach integrates the assumption of interrelatedness between the client’s psychological, biological, spiritual, and social dimensions. There are different types of approaches originating from other psychologists which include, person-centered therapy, gestalt, and existential theories. Person-centered therapy was developed by Carl Rogers which focuses on building a therapeutic relationship between client and therapist. The level of comfort the client has allows them to be able to share their experiences. Gestalt therapy was developed by Fritz Perls who concentrated on understanding everything as parts of a whole. Gestalt therapists seek to help their clients to gain an understanding of themselves and the world around them. Existential therapy goes further in depth towards acceptance. This approach can be used towards a different range of ages and groups.
There are many benefits towards humanistic theory being applied in child development. Although this approach is not common in child development due to an overlap with Freudian and Eriksonian psychoanalysis. Behaviorism and social learning theory, biological perspectives, cognitive approaches from Piaget and Vygotsky should also be taken into consideration. The humanistic approach does specifically focus on the development of the self when embedded within the social environment. A child’s self can be referred to the manner in which he or she integrates and organizes his or her experiences into a changing dynamic pattern of perceptions, feelings, and personal meanings within the context of interpersonal relatedness. Children are born with an intrinsic drive towards mature selfhood when they are being taken care of which leads to psychological health. Self-development is not something that is required to be taught to all children, it is something that naturally occurs when there is no form of blockage from their parents towards their development. A humanistic development theory can cause a benefit from multiple data sources. This is something that has been established by Carl Rogers and Karen Horney as they examined interactions of adolescents.
As we have discussed, the humanistic approach can be used towards young adolescents, this approach also serves a purpose in the education and learning process. The ultimate purpose of a humanistic approach in education is the learning process that was started and is intended for the benefit of humanity. This can be interpreted as achieving self-actualization, self-understanding, and self-realization. The main concept of this approach in education is to raise awareness of the critical processes that educators and learners use in the process of teaching and learning. According to terminology, the humanistic approach is a theory that is focused on the problem of how each individual is influenced and guided by the purpose that they connect to their own experiences. It is based on the body of knowledge concerning human culture, handling cognitive problems and complex challenges, and targets understanding in reference to primarily heuristic methods. Abraham Maslow, who is a creator of the humanistic approach was combining forces that would synthesize the field of behaviorism and psychoanalysis, though previously separate and would integrate aspects of subjective and objective, personal, and the public from the human into complete holistic psychology. In the humanistic psychology approach, it focuses on the mental capabilities that set humans apart; self-awareness, creativity, planning, decision making, and responsibility. It is mainly used as motivation towards development and growth that prompts us all to fulfill our own unique potential and to achieve an ideal condition known as self-actualization. Within the school system, this approach can be used for teachers or students. The main purpose of this approach is to reveal motivations through behavior and along with both individual actions and interaction with others.
Another area where a humanistic approach could be used is with adolescents. They are dealing with crisis situations and emotions. There has been a study of seventy-five adolescents who were admitted to a crisis residential program that has created working alliances and focused on therapeutic goal attainment. The method used in this research uses adolescents who are between the ages of twelve and seventeen who were admitted to an inpatient acute care behavioral hospital located in southern region of the United States over a six month period. There was a higher percentage of females over males presented in this case. The participants with one or more diagnoses also had major depression as a primary diagnosis. Other diagnoses involved were bipolar, psychotic, posttraumatic disorder (PTSD), and other adjustment disorders with depressed moods. The reasons why these participants were admitted were mainly due to self-harm, dangerousness towards others, psychotic symptoms and other reasons. In this present stage, adolescents may be going through certain crisis due to a numerous amount of changes and difficulty coping. Individuals goes through physical, cognitive, and social changes along with a significant amount of exploration, identity development, and face a certain number of heartaches. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate a strategy of quantitative research that is rooted in humanistic theoretical supportive structure and to provide evidence between working alliances and therapeutic goal attainment for adolescents in crisis. Coping strategies are essential towards this stage of development. The counseling relationship is the foundational element to humanistic counseling which is used to work on the core conditions, which emphasizes “warmth, affection, trust, authenticity, and congruence” (Kottler ; Balkin, 2017, p. 4). The humanistic aspects that are indicative of effective counseling are things such as a positive working alliance and are highly related to crisis stabilization.
One of the many reasons why I have chosen humanistic approach was due to the creativity that is involved and because it has a different perspective than other approaches. Some of the techniques that are used in this approach also apply to gestalt therapy and psychodrama. There is an approach that is a part of gestalt therapy which is called “the empty chair”. This helps clients to gain a greater insight about themselves and draws them to an awareness of their thoughts, emotions, and how they act upon them. It allows clients to “escape” from their reality and then draws them back in as they express thoughts to themselves with this approach. I have learned about this approach in an art therapy course and it caught my interest. As a professional, I am certain that I will use some of the humanistic techniques for my future clients.