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Summary: Different Approaches to Counseling

Two of the most influential counseling psychologists were Carl Rogers and Albert Ellis. In many ways they were opposites.

Rogers was warm and 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?"

Ultimately, the client had to figure that out. No therapist could tell a person who they really were.

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 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. He advocated getting rid of irrational ideas such as "everybody must love me." His A-B-C-D-E mnemonic highlighted basic ingredients in his approach.

Ellis was known for challenging his clients directly (which Ellis called 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.

Clients are asked to practice the thought that makes them anxious. This type of technique has a long history, including (in psychotherapy) Frankl's paradoxical intention and Dunlop's negative practice.


Write to Dr. Dewey at psywww@gmail.com.


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