Summary: Different Approaches to Counseling

Two of the most influential counseling psychologists were Carl Rogers and Albert Ellis. In many ways they are opposites. Rogers was warm, accepting, and refused to criticize or give advice. He dealt with many problems and said the underlying problem was always the question, "Who am I, really?" Rogers felt people would find their own solutions to their problems, given a supportive social relationship. Self generated solutions were the only solutions that would last, Rogers maintained.

Rogers is sometimes criticized as the father of pop psychology talk like "going with the flow." However, these ideas were new when Rogers proposed them in the 1940s and early 1950s. Rogerian therapy works best for those who seek self-exploration. It can be frustrating for those seeking direct advice.

Albert Ellis gave direct advice to his clients, mostly about getting rid of "irrational ideas" such as "everybody must love me." His A-B-C-D-E mnemonic spells out the basic ingredients of his approach. Ellis was known for challenging his clients directly (the "D" in his scheme standing for disputing irrational beliefs). Ellis advocated taking control of one's life and not dwelling on problems. Ellis was criticized for an "anything you can do, I can do better" attitude. He sometimes alienated clients, who either "gave in" or "fled" from him. Ellis accepted this as a normal part of therapy.

Sometimes reverse psychology works better than direct advice. Leon Seltzer described paradoxical strategies in therapy. A problem is made to disappear by asking a client to practice it. This surprising technique has a long history, including Frankl's paradoxical intention and Dunlop's negative practice.


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Copyright © 2007 Russ Dewey