ORIGINAL ARTICLE Connecting Theories to Practice: A Model for Categorizing Theories According to Use James T. Hansen Published online: 5 July 2014 # Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014 Abstract In modernist fashion, counseling theories are ordinarily categorized according to their common conceptual features. This system of classification generally does not serve counseling practitioners, who use theories to help clients. The author proposes a practition- er-based, postmodernist model of classification that organizes theories according to the ways that they can be used. Keywords Counseling . Counseling theories . Philosophy . Counselor education Introduction Counselors regularly look through the lens of various theories to understand their clients and how to help them. Numerous theoretical options have been introduced over the past century (Corey 2013 ). The counseling profession, as a result, is thoroughly infused with theories, as students are required to learn theories, counselors often identify with particular orientations, researchers work within defined conceptual parameters, and certain organizations are wholly devoted to the advancement and dissemination of particular theoretical perspectives. Given their prevalence and importance, theories, like oxygen, seem to encourage and sustain life in the counseling ecosystem. With this plethora of competing theoretical outlooks, anyone entering the counseling profession looking for a simple, consolidated vision of helping is bound to be disappointed. Indeed, counseling theories often have incompatible foundational assumptions, which can make the theoretical landscape extraordinarily complex and difficult to grasp (Fancher 1995 ; Hansen 2002 ). For instance, psychodynamic perspectives posit that a repressed unconscious is at the core of motivation and healing (Gabbard 2010 ; Pine 1990 ), while cognitive orientations give primacy to thought processes (Mahoney 1991 ). Humanists idealize individual meaning systems (Hansen 2012 ; Matson 1971 ); behaviorists, alternatively, focus on observable behav- iors and downplay the role of subjectivity in the helping process (Skinner 1974 ). This theoretical complexity has understandably sparked efforts to group theories into various categories. These categorical models are designed to bring order to the diverse array Int J Adv Counselling (2014) 36:384 – 394 DOI 10.1007/s10447-014-9214-3 J. T. Hansen ( * ) Department of Counseling, Oakland University, 450E Pawley Hall, Rochester, MI 48309, USA e-mail: [email protected]
of theories by highlighting conceptual commonalities. For instance, Frank and Frank ( 1991 ) sorted theories of individual helping into evocative (e.g., psychoanalysis) and directive (e.g., cognitive) categories. Wampold ( 2001 ), alternatively, posited overarching medical and con- textual models, which subsume multiple theoretical perspectives.
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