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Running Head: PERSONAL INTEGRATED THEORETICAL ORIENTATION

Personal Integrated Theoretical Orientation


Jenny Baker
Gwynedd-Mercy University
EDU 513

PERSONAL INTEGRATED THEORETICAL ORIENTATION


Personal Integrated Theoretical Orientation
No two people are exactly alike. Each person has their own unique characteristics,
emotions, personalities, challenges and worldviews. When facing personal struggles and
obstacles, each person has a different way of handling and dealing with these issues. Two people
facing the same challenge may react very differently. In the counseling realm, each individual
must be understood as a unique person and treated accordingly. I believe this is why there are so
many counseling theories in the psychological world. It has been recognized that there is not just
one way to counsel and not just one correct theory. It is extremely important for a counselor to
have an integrated theoretical orientation in order to meet the needs of each unique client. Most
effective counselors do have a core guiding theory which helps to organize, prioritize and
interpret the information collected from a client. However, an effective counselor then needs to
supplement the core theory with aspects from one or two other theories to provide the best
possible support to the client.
My core theoretical orientation is the Humanistic paradigm, which emphasizes the
constructive, positive side of human nature (Gatongi, 2007; Williams & Lair, 1991).
Specifically, I adhere to Roger's person-centered theory, which falls under the Humanistic
paradigm, as my fundamental, core theory. The person-centered approach contends that each
individual has the tendency to move toward growth, independence, and maturity, which is called
self-actualization (Williams & Lair, 1991). According to Rogers, in order to help a person move
toward self-actualization, three core conditions need to be established within the counseling
relationship. Empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard are the three necessary
core conditions (Erford, 2015). I believe empathy is the most important condition when
establishing a counseling relationship. "Empathy is the ability to understand the client's world in
the way the client understands it" (Erford, 2015, p. 66). This idea can also be described as
stepping into the client's shoes and really trying to understand how the client views his/her

PERSONAL INTEGRATED THEORETICAL ORIENTATION


experiences. When a client feels truly heard and understood, the client will be able to be more
trusting and open with the counselor and more apt to change. Empathetic understanding takes
time and effort, but is necessary for a successful counseling relationship (Gatongi, 2007).
Congruence is also an important aspect for the counselor to demonstrate. Congruence can also
be referred to as genuineness (Gatongi, 2007). A counselor should be open, honest and sincere
with clients (Gatongi, 2007; Erford, 2015). This demonstrates to the client that the counselor is
authentic in his/her feelings toward the client. Congruence also helps the client to establish trust
in the counselor. If a counselor does not demonstrate authenticity, clients can usually see
through this, which will negatively affect the counseling relationship. "Counseling will be
inhibited if the helper feels one way about the client but acts in a different way" (Gatongi, 2007,
p. 207). The third core component of person-centered theory is unconditional positive regard.
Clients who seek counseling typically are feeling that something is out of balance in their lives.
They may feel badly about themselves or others and may feel insecure. Counselors need to show
complete acceptance of the client and not pass any judgment on the client's personality, feelings
or behaviors (Erford, 2015). This unconditional positive regard is an important piece to helping
the client feel accepted and to establish an atmosphere of warmth in the counseling environment.
Unconditional positive regard does not mean that the counselor has to agree with the client's
choices or behaviors, but rather the counselor accepts the client as a person of worth (Gatongi,
2007).
I remember the first time I learned about different counseling theories in graduate school
many years ago. Reading about Roger's person-centered approach to counseling made complete
sense to me. I felt as though it fit my personality and aligned with my ideas about human nature
and how I approach people in my daily interactions. I have always been told by friends that I
carry a sign on my back which says "tell me your life story". I am always very interested in
peoples' experiences and feelings and ask questions. I believe my acceptance, active listening

PERSONAL INTEGRATED THEORETICAL ORIENTATION


skills, and positive regard for people, allows for complete strangers to feel comfortable in sharing
with me. It actually drives by best friend crazy, because no matter where we go, I will strike up
a conversation with someone. I am very curious about what makes people do the things they do,
about the choices they make and how they are feeling, most importantly. I also believe in the
goodness of people. One might not readily be able to see the goodness in some people, but I
believe it is there. I also believe people do have the power and ability to change and selfactualize, but may need assistance and guidance to do so.
During my practicum when meeting with a student, I would attempt to actively listen,
accept the student, not pass judgment, be authentic and provide an atmosphere of warmth. This
is a tricky thing to do as a school counselor because you do not have the luxury of time. At the
high school level, I typically met with a student for, at the most, fifteen minutes. Establishing
rapport and empathy in this amount of time is difficult. However, I did meet with several
students weekly, and believe I was able to establish connections with these students. I worked
with two boys consistently during my practicum. I established an accepting environment
through letting them express their frustrations with school work (both students have ADHD and
difficulty with grades) and I let them know I was here to support and help them succeed. Before
the Thanksgiving break I told the boys I was going to be gone for two weeks for vacation and
they were both sad that we would not be able to meet for those two weeks. It was a good feeling
to know that we had a connection and that my presence was going to be missed! (Maybe it is
just because they get candy and miss 20 minutes of class when they meet with me, but I liked to
think it's me!)
In order for a person to succeed in self-actualization, I believe it is also important to take
into account a person's family dynamics. Family plays a huge role in the development of an
individual. Integrating the core person-centered approach with a systems paradigm, makes sense
to me. In order to understand an individual, a counselor must understand the family dynamics

PERSONAL INTEGRATED THEORETICAL ORIENTATION


and the role the individual plays within that family system. Families greatly influence, positively
and/or negatively, a person's development and must be considered when trying to provide
empathy to a client. "The family provides the framework for understanding how the client
behaves and functions in interpersonal relationships" (Erford, 2015, p. 77). It is important to
help the client see what role s/he plays in the family relationship and if this role is limiting or
preventing self-actualization. During my practicum, I met weekly with a student who has
Asperger's and is also very disorganized. He has trouble remembering homework and is failing
to complete assignments. In order to better understand his situation, I asked him about what his
schedule is like after school. He shared with me that he splits time between his mom's and dad's
houses during the week and his schedule is different depending on the day. He also shared with
me he has one step brother, two half brothers and a half sister. After hearing this, it became
clearer to me why he was having difficulty remembering homework and assignments. Because
he is splitting time between two parents, he was having difficulties remembering to bring all of
his books from one house to the other. He also is the middle child among many siblings, which
provides some interesting family dynamics as well. Being able to learn about his family system,
allowed me to see this student's situation more clearly and understand why he was having some
of these difficulties.
As a practicum student, I am just beginning to define my personal approach to
counseling. I feel a connection and true understanding of the person-centered approach
supplemented by the systems approach. I do believe empathy, unconditional positive regard and
congruence are the basic foundations for any type of counseling. Without these conditions, a
counselor cannot establish rapport with a client, which is crucial to an effective helping
relationship. In addition, during my practicum, I have seen how influential families are to the
students. You cannot understand a student completely without taking into consideration the

PERSONAL INTEGRATED THEORETICAL ORIENTATION


family dynamics. Throughout my internships and career, I will continue to develop my personal
integrated theoretical approach through practice, collaboration and supervision.

PERSONAL INTEGRATED THEORETICAL ORIENTATION


References
Erford, Bradley T. (2015). Clinical experiences in counseling. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson
Education, Inc.
Gatongi, Francis. (2007). Person-centred approach in schools: Is it the answer
to disruptive behaviour in our classrooms? Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 20 (2),
205211. Retrieved fromhttp:// donnieholland.wiki.westga. edu/file/view/ person%
20centered%20approach %20%26%20class%20behavior.pdf
Williams, W. C. & Lair, George S. (1991). Using a person-centered approach with children who
have a disability. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling, Vol 25(3), 194-203.
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