'Counselling' and 'Counselling Psychology' are not synonymous terms, though they do share elements of their history. Here we explore how Counselling Psychology is in many ways superior, as it brings a scientific evidence base to the art of counselling.
The therapy balanced on the art-science interface
‘Counselling’ and ‘Counselling Psychology’ are two closely related disciplines. Though both are talking therapies and share the quality of providing a safe space in which the client can explore their thoughts and feelings, Counselling Psychology combines this with knowledge drawn from a rigorous psychological evidence base.
Counselling Psychologists at The House are all registered with the Health Professions Council and have had extensive training to doctoral level. This makes them much more able to explore issues in depth, working in ways that have been proved to be very effective.
Counselling Psychology’s roots are therefore twofold: the ‘Counselling’ component can be seen as informed heavily by Humanistic and Existential Psychology, and the ‘Psychology’ component by empirical research-based methods:
The term ‘Counselling’ is thought to have been invented by Carl Rogers, one of the founders of the Humanistic approach. This was developed in the 1950s as a reaction to the perceived failings of Psychoanalysis and Behaviourism, both of which were very fashionable amongst practitioners at that time.
Where psychoanalysts thought that ‘unconscious motivations’ drive behaviour, behaviourists proposed that ‘conditioning’ (learning) processes serve this purpose. Rogers and his therapist peers felt that both these approaches were too pessimistic, both largely failing to take into account the important role of personal choice. They decided to focus instead on each individual’s potential, and stressed the importance of growth and self-actualization.
Humanistic Psychology and, in turn the Counselling Psychology that it inspired both move beyond medicalized conceptions to a non-pathologised view of the person. This is something that is at the heart of The House Partnership ethos: our therapists are not interested in labelling or categorizing their clients as ‘well’ or ‘unwell’: instead the focus is on each person’s personal concerns, needs and aims in a manner characterised by empathy.
Where Counselling Psychology deviates from this early work of Rogers et al is in its insistence that therapeutic practice should be informed by a strong evidence base drawn from replicated research: Counselling Psychology recognises the importance of clear conceptual frameworks in which research can develop and practice can be evaluated.
It is not enough to ‘guess’ that therapy is working: we have to know scientifically that this is so. This is exemplified by the practice of continuing supervision. Training for our Counselling psychologists is not a ‘one shot’ affair: they regularly (and anonymously) review and reflect on their work and practice with professional peers to ensure that what they are doing remains exemplary.
In this way, in its blending of emphases on the subjective human experience and the objective domain of research and evidence, Counselling Psychology can be thought of as the perfect blend of art and science, enabling exploration of concepts such as love, meaning, existential purpose and truth (the traditional domains of Philosophy), but blending this with the rigorous empirical techniques of the science of Psychology.