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Theoretical Orientation And Practice Of Nz Counsellors And Psychotherapists

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During the 20th century, counselling and psychotherapy approaches saw an evolution in theories and techniques from the use of one main perspective, toward perspectives that are integrative and eclectic in practice. This proposal will commence with an outline of theoretical trends within counselling over time, from psychoanalytic theory in the 19th century to the plethora of theories available to practitioners today. Integration and eclecticism is defined and studies are presented that offer contrary views on the efficacy of integrative and eclectic practice. One of two studies by Henry H. Hollanders & John McLeod (1999) will be highlighted. Their PractitionersÐŽ¦ Theoretical Orientation Questionnaire (PTOQ) established the extent of integrative and eclectic practice among counsellors and other practitioners of psychological therapies in Britain. This research proposal is a partial replication of the first study. The aim of this proposal is to establish the extent of theoretical integration and eclectic practice by New Zealand counsellors and psychotherapists, taking into consideration the cultural nature of our society.


Prior to 1940 the main theoretical approach was psychodynamic, which included the theories of Adler (individual psychology), Jung (analytical psychology), and Erickson (psychosocial); but the most widely known approach was FreudÐŽ¦s psychoanalytic perspective (Corey, 2001).

Post World War II to the late 1970ÐŽ¦s saw the rise to prominence of several main theoretical perspectives that rivaled and eventually overtook the psychodynamic approach. These perspectives were the behavioural and cognitive schools of thought. During this time, between 100 and 250 systems of counselling and psychotherapy were developed (Corsini, 1981; Parloff, 1979 cited in Hollanders & McLeod, 1999). These systems for the most part, were founded upon the three main schools of thought; the psychoanalytic, behavioural and humanistic viewpoints (Young, 1993).

By the 1980ÐŽ¦s, coinciding with the rise of the phenomenological perspective, counselling practitioners were faced with a wide array of both theories and therapeutic techniques from which to choose.

The movement toward eclecticism has been supported in various studies conducted within the United States. (Kelly, 1961; Garfield & Hurtz, 1974; Beitman, Norcross & Prochaska, 1982; Jayaratne, 1982; Goldfried & Norcross, 1984; Norcross, Prochaska & Gallagher, 1989; Jensen, Bergin & Greaves, 1990 as cited in Hollanders & McLeod, 1999). Research has shown that between 27% and 70% of American practitioners indicated eclecticism as their preferred mode of practice (Lazarus, Beutler & Norcross, 1992, cited in Hollanders & McLeod, 1999).

However, few studies have been conducted in Britain (Dryden, 1984; Norcross, in Dryden, 1991; Hollanders & McLeod, 1999). Despite this, research has found that eclecticism was the most frequently reported mode of practice in Britain (OÐŽ¦Sullivan & Dryden, 1990; and Norcross, Dryden & Brust, 1992). These findings were supported by a further survey of the membership of the British Association for Counselling (BAC, 1993) which found that 74% of counsellors may be utilizing an eclectic perspective in their practice (Hollanders & McLeod, 1999).

ÐŽ§Increasingly, however, ЎҐeclecticismÐŽ¦ is being applied to the use of diverse techniques without regard to their origins within a particular theoretical orientation; while ЎҐintegrationÐŽ¦ is being used to refer to attempts at combining diverse theoretical concepts into a coherent new theoryЎЁ (Hollanders, 1997, p.483).

The recognition of the use of integrative and eclectic practices has led to researchers developing more definitive descriptions of what these two terms mean.

Nuttall (2002) identified three types of integration: constructive, complicit and contiguous. Constructive or classic integration refers to the synthesis and development of multiple theories into one coherent theory in order to greatly improve counselling effectiveness to the client. Complicit or emergence integration refers to the development or ÐŽ§emergenceЎЁ of a theoretical perspective that arises from the complex dynamics that exist within the counselling relationship. This could include counselling methods and techniques, choice of interventions, and interpersonal dynamics between therapist and client. Contiguous integration refers to the idea that there are two main sets of theoretical perspectives. One set of perspectives views the therapeutic relationship as having its locus within the client eg psychodynamic. The second set of perspectives views the locus of the therapeutic relationship as outside the client eg behaviourist. Thus the problem is viewed as either internal or external to the client (Nuttall 2002).

Three types of eclecticism have been identified, they are: technical, synthetic and ÐŽ§A theoreticalЎЁ. Technical eclecticism is where the practitioner utilizes various methods that have their foundation in different schools of thought, however, the practitioner still adheres to one main theoretical position. Synthetic eclecticism refers to a practitionerÐŽ¦s use of various therapeutic techniques that have their foundation based within two or more theoretical perspectives. These perspectives are chosen according to the practitionerÐŽ¦s preferences. Thirdly, a theoretical eclecticism is where the practitioner will use any therapeutic techniques and theoretical perspectives (Norcross, 1986; cited in Young, 1993).

Although in relation to counselling and psychotherapy the definitions of integration and eclecticism appear clear and succinct, they are by no means definitive. Confusion arises within various literature reviews because the terms integration and eclecticism have been used interchangeably in relation to each other (Hollanders, 1999).

Patterson (1989) has cast doubt that theoretical integration (broad-band eclecticism) is possible because of an incompatibility between theories. Further research has argued that

ÐŽ§Unsystematic eclectics and theoretical integrationists attempt to meld disparate ideas into harmonious wholes. They desire to construct a superordinate umbrella and build a coherent framework by blending the best elements from different theories.



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