I believe that the goals of counseling are much broader than symptoms reduction. Counseling does not work like medicine. In medicine, you go to see the doctor when something is wrong or to make sure that nothing is wrong. If there is an issue, your doctor does what he can to fix it.
The mission of counseling is much more expansive. Does counseling address, improve, and eliminate symptoms? Of course it does! But it doesn’t stop there. Counseling heals and grows the entire person. It increases self-awareness, self-knowledge and self-acceptance. With counseling people become much better not just at dealing with life’s hardships, traumas and crushing disappointments but they become better able to love, work, and play. Their sense of personal freedom expands and they understand themselves, others and the world in more realistic and adaptive terms. These benefits increase even after counseling is over and last for the rest of the person’s life. Counseling not only heals the person, it grows the person.
“For teenagers learning who they are and what they want to become counseling can be an extremely enriching personal experience.”
— Miguel Brown
Why are self-awareness, self-knowledge and self-acceptance important?
My favorite example is that of a robot I saw on a science show once. The robot was absolutely incredible. It was a robot that was designed to carry a soldier’s gear. It was like a robotic mule. It could go across difficult terrain, up hills and over ice. It wouldn’t even fall over if someone tried to kick it over! Amazing machine, amazing abilities. As I kept watching the segment, thoroughly impressed, I saw this robot walk right into a lake and destroy itself. Why did it do that? The answer is simple. A robot doesn’t know what it is. It doesn’t know anything about itself. It has zero self-awareness and zero self-knowledge. With all its amazing abilities the robot was still fundamentally vulnerable, weak and reliant on humans for its continued existence and functionality. When teens lack these attributes they are not much different than this amazing but susceptible robot. As teens develop these skills they tend to make better decisions, be more self-confident and feel happier.
My theoretical approach draws heavily from the psychodynamic tradition. In addition I am influenced by the person-centered approach of Carl Rogers. Below is a description of each therapeutic counseling tradition.