“We inspire each other to be the best that we can be, and we commit to lifelong learning.”
Exactly one year from now, we will tie the knot! 07072017 💍👰👫
1. “I promise to be open with you and share my feelings.” 
Even though we all want deeper intimacy and connection, we take contradictory actions. We don’t talk to our partners about how we feel, what’s bothering us, or what we want from them. For a lasting relationship, engage with the uncomfortable parts of being vulnerable and honest with your partner. Be willing to share those things that are bothering you. Be willing to work through roadblocks—your partner isn’t a mind reader. 
2. “I promise to listen and be there for you without judgment.”

Not every comment or story that’s shared requires a response, solution, or action. You can simply listen attentively and be present. You can promise to hear without making judgments and comparisons or turning what your partner is saying into something about you. Disengage with the thoughts that your partner’s concerns raise and simply listen as a friend. Listen deeply and compassionately. 
3. “I promise to let you be true to yourself and let go of expectations.”
If you hold onto unrealistic expectations, you’re going to be disappointed. If you hoped they would pick the vacation you wanted or opted to spend the holidays where you had hoped, you’re setting yourself up for heartache. Relationships are not about meeting unspoken expectations. Learn to let go of your desire to change your partner and welcome the person they are. 
4. “I promise to have your back and support you always.”
When your partner is going through challenges, they need you more than any other time. When they are dealing with a setback or being criticized by their families or at work, you’re especially needed. Make a promise to support your partner when life gets challenging. Promise to be on your partner’s side when no one else is. Promise to be there for them emotionally and spiritually when they are facing their biggest battles. Be your partner’s supporter and encourager.
5. “I promise to accept you unconditionally and forgive quickly.”
At what point do we start thinking to ourselves that a particular quality is a deal-breaker? Stop looking for what doesn’t work. Can we make a promise to accept the other person, flaws and all? While we’re it, can we let go of grudges and hurt feelings quickly so we can move forward together? 
6. “I promise to empower you and help you grow.”
“Instead of lecturing at you, being cynical or negative, I promise to uplift you.” Why not use the “no complaint” rule in your relationship and practice heavy doses of inspiration? Show respect and affirm each other. Encourage each other to do better. Don’t criticize or condemn your partner to get them to act a particular way. Instead, address issues that need to be addressed and empower your partner by having open and honest conversations with each other. 
7. “I promise to love you and show you my appreciation.”
A relationship is a moving, changing, growing entity. Not something that is to grow stale and be taken for granted. Life, careers, and kids often get in the way of cultivating and nurturing a relationship. To keep a relationship from falling apart, take an active role in nurturing it. Create time for connection and romance. Prioritize the relationship in your life and let your partner know how much you value them. Remind yourself what you’re grateful for and express your love openly. Let your partner know you love and appreciate them.


Extraordinary Human Brain

Extraordinary human brain – once you know what it is, this apparently innocuous picture of a blob assumes a terrible gravity. It is an adult human brain that is entirely smooth – free of the ridges and folds so characteristic of our species’ most complex organ.
We can only imagine what life was like for this person. He or she was a resident of what is now North Texas State Hospital, a mental health facility, and died there in 1970, but that’s all we know. While the jar containing the brain is labelled with a reference number, the microfilm containing the patient’s medical records has been lost.

Photographer Adam Voorhes spent a year trying to track down more information about this and nearly 100 other human brains held in a collection at the University of Texas, Austin, to no avail. The label on the jar states that the patient had agyria – a lack of gyri and sulci, the ridges and folds formed by the normally wrinkled cerebral cortex.
This rare condition, also known as lissencephaly, often leads to death before the age of 10. It can cause muscle spasms, seizures and, as it vastly reduces the surface area of this key part of the brain, a range of learning difficulties.
David Dexter, who runs the Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank at Imperial College London, says he has never seen anything like this before: “We do get the odd individual where certain sulci are missing but nothing to the extent of this brain.” Dexter says he is not surprised the person survived to adulthood since the brain is so adaptive, though he guesses there would be deleterious effects.
While this might teach us more about the brain itself, the identity of the person who had this extraordinary brain – and details of his or her life – seem to be lost forever.
Photo by Adam Voorhes

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy

by Gerald Corey

Brooks/Cole, a division of Cengage Learning

Theory Students:  The following is an outline form of powerpoints produced by Gerald Corey, the textbook author, designed to accompany the textbook.  Please note that the author is Gerald Corey and this work is produced by Cengage Learning, a division of Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.  This work is copyrighted and can be reproduced and used only with the permission of the textbook company.

The Therapeutic Relationship

  • The therapeutic relationship is an important component of effective counseling
  • The therapist as a person is a key part of the effectiveness of therapeutic treatments
  • Research shows that both the therapy relationship and the therapy used contribute to treatment outcome

Theories of Counseling

  • Gerald Corey’s Perspective of Theories of Counseling:
  • No single model can explain all the facets of human experience
    • Eleven approaches to counseling and psychotherapy are discussed
  • Your textbook book assumes:
    • Students can begin to acquire a counseling style tailored to their own personality
      • The process will take years
      • Different theories are not “right” or “wrong”

The Effective Counselor from the perspective of Gerald Corey

  • The most important instrument you have is YOU
  • Your living example of who you are and how you struggle to live up to your potential is powerful
  • Be authentic
  • The stereotyped, professional role can be shed
  • If you hide behind your role the client will also hide
  • Be a therapeutic person and be clear about who you are
  • Be willing to grow, to risk, to care, and to be involved


Counseling for the Counselor

  • In your experience of being a client you can:
  • Consider your motivation for wanting to be a counselor
  • Find support as you struggle to be a professional
  • Have help in dealing with personal issues that are opened through your interactions with clients
  • Be assisted in managing your countertransferences
  • Corey believes that“…therapists cannot hope to open doors for clients that they have not opened for themselves.”
  • Research shows that many therapists who seek personal counseling find it:
  • Personally beneficial
  • Important for their professional development

The Counselor’s Values

  • Be aware of value imposition
    • How your values influence your interventions
    • How your values may influence your client’s experiences in therapy
  • Recognize that you are not value-neutral
  • Your job is to assist clients in finding answers that are most congruent with their own values
  • Find ways to manage value conflicts between you and your clients
  • Begin therapy by exploring the client’s goals

Multicultural Counseling

  • Become aware of your biases and values
  • Become aware of your own cultural norms and expectations
  • Attempt to understand the world from your client’s vantage point
  • Gain a knowledge of the dynamics of oppression, racism, discrimination, and stereotyping
  • Study the historical background, traditions, and values of
    your client
  • Be open to learning from your client
  • Challenge yourself to expand your vantage point to explore your client’s ways of life that are different from your own
  • Develop an awareness of acculturation strategies


Issues Faced by Beginning Therapists

  • Achieving a sense of balance and well-being
  • Questioning competency as you learn new techniques or begin to practice on your own without supervision
  • Accepting your limitations while simultaneously acknowledging your strengths
  • Managing difficult and unsatisfying relationships with clients
  • Struggling with commitment and personal growth
  • Developing healthy helping relationships with clients
  • Developing healthy personal boundaries in your professional life


Staying Alive – It’s a Prerequisite

  • Take care of your single most important instrument – YOU
  • Develop self-care strategies and a plan for renewal
  • Know what causes burnout
  • Know how to recognize and remedy burnout
  • Know how to prevent burnout through self-care

Professional Ethics

  • Ethics codes are a fundamental component of effective counseling:
    • Guidelines that outline professional standards of behavior and practice
    • Codes do not make decisions for counselors
    • Counselors must interpret and apply ethical codes to their decision-making

Types of ethics to consider:

  • Mandatory Ethics
  • Aspirational Ethics


Ethical Decision Making

  • The principles that underlie our professional codes
  • Benefit others, do no harm, respect other’s autonomy, be just, fair and faithful
  • The role of ethical codes–they:
  • Educate us about responsibilities, are a basis for accountability, protect clients, are a basis for improving professional practice

Making ethical decisions

  • Identify the problem, review relevant codes, seek consultation, brainstorm, list consequences, decide and document the reasons for your actions
  • To the degree it is possible, include the client in your decision making process


Informed Consent

  • Clients need enough information about the counseling process to be able to make informed choices
  • Educate clients about their rights and responsibilities
  • Provide Informed Consent
  • Therapy Procedures
  • Risks/Benefits and Alternatives
  • Right to withdraw from treatment
  • Costs of treatment
  • Supervision
  • Privileged communication
  • Limits of Confidentiality


Limits of Confidentiality

Confidentiality is essential but not absolute

Exceptions to Confidentiality:

  • Duty to Warn (Tarasoff Case)
  • The client poses a danger to self or others
  • A client under the age of 16 is the victim of abuse
  • A dependant adult or older adult is the victim of abuse
  • The client needs to be hospitalized
  • The information is made an issue in a court action
  • The client requests a release of record


Multicultural Issues

  • Biases are reflected when we:
  • Neglect social and community factors to focus unduly on individualism
  • Assess clients with instruments that have not been normed on the population they represent
  • Judge as psychopathological – behaviors, beliefs, or experiences that are normal for the client’s culture
  • Strictly adhere to Western counseling theories without considering its applicability to the client’s diverse cultural background


Assessment and Diagnosis

  • Assessment is an ongoing process designed to help the counselor evaluate key elements of a client’s psychological functioning
  • Assessment practices are influenced by the therapist’s theoretical orientation
  • Requires cultural sensitivity
  • Can be helpful in treatment planning


  • Diagnosis is the process of identifying pattern of symptoms which fit the criteria for a specific mental disorder defined in the DSM-IV-TR
  • Requires cultural sensitivity
  • Counselors debate its utility in understanding the client’s subjective world
  • Can be helpful in treatment planning


Evidence-Based Practices

  • Strengths
    • Counselors use treatments that have been validated by empirical research
    • Treatments are usually brief and are standardized
    • Are preferred by many insurance companies
    • Calls for accountability among mental health professionals to provide effective treatments
  • Criticisms
  • Some counselors believe this approach is mechanistic and does not allow for individual differences in clients
  • Is not well-suited for helping clients with existential concerns
  • It is difficult to measure both relational and technical aspects of a psychological treatment
  • Has potential for misuse as a method of cost containment for insurance companies instead of a method of efficacious treatment for clients

Dual Relationships

  • Are not deemed inherently unethical in the ethics codes of the APA or ACA.
  • Multiple relationships must be managed in an ethical way to eliminate non-professional interactions and protect client well-being.


  • Some helpful questions:
    • Will my dual relationship keep me from confronting and challenging the client?
    • Will my needs for the relationship become more important than therapeutic activities?
    • Can my client manage the dual relationship?
    • Whose needs are being met–my client’s or my own?
    • Can I recognize and manage professionally my attraction to my client?


Psychoanalytic Therapy

Structure of Personality

  • THE ID—The Demanding Child
    • Ruled by the pleasure principle
  • THE EGO—The Traffic Cop
    • Ruled by the reality principle
  • THE SUPEREGO—The Judge
    • Ruled by the moral principle

Conscious and Unconscious

The Unconscious

Clinical evidence for postulating the unconscious:

  • Dreams
  • Slips of the tongue
  • The Unconscious
  • Posthypnotic suggestions
  • Material derived from free-association
  • Material derived from projective techniques
  • Symbolic content of psychotic symptoms
    • NOTE: consciousness is only a thin slice of the total mind



  • Feeling of dread resulting from repressed feelings, memories and desires
  • Develops out of conflict among the id, ego and superego to control psychic energy
  • Reality Anxiety
  • Neurotic Anxiety
  • Moral Anxiety


Ego-Defense Mechanisms

  • Ego-defense mechanisms:
    • Are normal behaviors which operate on an unconscious level and tend to deny or distort reality
    • Help the individual cope with anxiety and prevent the ego from being overwhelmed
    • Have adaptive value if they do not become a style of life to avoid facing reality


The Development of Personality

  • ORAL STAGE First year
    • Related to later mistrust and rejection issues
  • ANAL STAGE Ages 1-3
    • Related to later personal power issues
  • PHALLIC STAGE Ages 3-6
    • Related to later sexual attitudes
  • LATENCY STAGE Ages 6-12
    • A time of socialization
  • GENITAL STAGE Ages 12-60
  • Sexual energies are invested in life


Transference and Countertransference

  • Transference
    • The client reacts to the therapist as he did to an earlier significant other
      • This allows the client to experience feelings that would otherwise be inaccessible
      • ANALYSIS OF TRANSFERENCE — allows the client to achieve insight into the influence of the past
    • Countertransference
      • The reaction of the therapist toward the client that may interfere with objectivity
        • Not always detrimental to therapeutic goals; can provide important means of understanding your client’s world
        • Countertransference reactions must be monitored so that they are used to promote understanding of the client and the therapeutic process.

Psychoanalytic Techniques

  • Free Association
    • Client reports immediately without censoring any feelings or thoughts
  • Interpretation
    • Therapist points out, explains, and teaches the meanings of whatever is revealed
  • Dream Analysis
    • Therapist uses the “royal road to the unconscious” to bring unconscious material to light
    • Latent content
    • Manifest content


  • Resistance
    • Anything that works against the progress of therapy and prevents the production of unconscious material
  • Analysis of Resistance
    • Helps the client to see that canceling appointments, fleeing from therapy prematurely, etc., are ways of defending against anxiety
      • These acts interfere with the ability to accept changes which could lead to a more satisfying life

Application to Group Counseling

  • Group work provides a rich framework for working through transference feelings
    • Feelings resembling those that members have experienced toward significant people in their past may emerge
    • Group members may come to represent symbolic figures from a client’s past
  • Competition for attention of the leader provides opportunities to explore how members dealt with feelings of competition in the past and how this effects their current interactions with others.
  • Projections experienced in group provide valuable clues to a client’s unresolved conflicts


Limitations of Classical Analysis

  • This approach may not be appropriate for all cultures or socioeconomic groups
  • Deterministic focus does not emphasize current maladaptive behaviors
  • Minimizes role of the environment
  • Requires subjective interpretation
  • Relies heavily on client fantasy
  • Lengthy treatment may not be practical or affordable for many clients


Adlerian Therapy

Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology

  • Based on the holistic concept
  • A phenomenological approach
  • Teleological explanation of human behavior
  • Social interest is stressed
  • Birth order and sibling relationships
  • Therapy as teaching, informing and encouraging
  • Basic mistakes in the client’s private logic
  • The therapeutic relationship—a collaborative partnership


The Phenomenological Approach

  • Adlerians attempt to view the world from the client’s subjective frame of reference
    • How life is in reality is less important than how the individual believes life to be
    • It is not the childhood experiences that are crucial –
      it is our present interpretation of these events
  • Unconscious instincts and our past do not determine our behavior


Social Interest

  • Adler’s most significant and distinctive concept
    • Refers to an individual’s attitude toward and awareness of being a part of the human community
    • Embodies a community feeling and emphasizes the client’s positive feelings toward others in the world
    • Mental health is measured by the degree to which we successfully share with others and are concerned with their welfare
    • Happiness and success are largely related to social connectedness


  • A life movement that organizes the client’s reality, giving meaning to life
    • “fictional finalism” or “guiding self ideal”
    • Psychiatric symptoms are “failed attempts” at achieving our lifestyle
    • Adlerian therapy helps clients to effectively navigate lifestyle tasks
  • Lifestyle is how we move toward our life goals
    • “private logic”
    • Values, life plan, perceptions of self and others
    • Unifies all of our behaviors to provide consistency
    • Makes all our actions “fit together”


Inferiority and Superiority

  • Inferiority Feelings
    • Are normal
    • They are the wellspring of creativity.
    • Develop when we are young–characterized by early feelings of hopelessness
  • Superiority Feelings
    • Promote mastery
    • Enable us to overcome obstacles
  • Related Complexes
    • Inferiority Complex
    • Superiority Complex

Birth Order

  • A concept that assigns probability to having a certain set of experiences based on one’s position in the family
  • Adler’s five psychological positions:
    • Oldest child– receives more attention, spoiled,
      center of attention
    • Second of only two– behaves as if in a race, often opposite to first child
    • Middle– often feels squeezed out
    • Youngest– the baby
    • Only– does not learn to share or cooperate with other children, learns to deal with adults

Four Phases of Therapy

  • Phase 1: Establishing the Proper Therapeutic Relationship
    • Supportive, collaborative, educational, encouraging process
    • Person-to-person contact with the client precedes identification of the problem
    • Help client build awareness of his or her strengths
  • Phase 2: Exploring the Individual’s Psychological Dynamics
    • Lifestyle assessment
    • Subjective interview
    • Objective interview
    • Family constellation
    • Early recollections
    • Basic Mistakes
  • Phase 3: Encouraging Self-Understanding/Insight
    • Interpret the findings of the assessment
    • Hidden goals and purposes of behavior are made conscious
    • Therapist offers interpretations to help clients gain insight into their lifestyle
  • Phase 4: Reorientation and Re-education
    • Action-oriented
    • Useful vs. unhelpful



  • Encouragement instills self confidence by expecting clients to assume responsibility for their lives and embrace the fact that they can make changes
  • Encouragement is the most powerful method available for changing a person’s beliefs
    • Helps build self-confidence and stimulates courage
    • Discouragement is the basic condition that prevents people from functioning
    • Clients are encouraged to recognize that they have the power to choose and to act differently

Application to Group Counseling

  • Group provides a social context in which members can develop a sense of community and social-relatedness
  • Sharing of early recollections increases group cohesiveness
  • Action-oriented strategies for behavior change are implemented to help group members work together to challenge erroneous beliefs about self, life and others.
  • Employs a time-limited framework


Limitations of the Adlerian Approach

  • Adler spent most of his time teaching his theory as opposed to systematically documenting it
  • Hence, some consider Adlerian theory simplistic
  • Many of Adler’s theoretical constructs (i.e. lifestyle) are difficult to measure and require empirical testing
  • Research on treatment efficacy is limited


Existential Psychotherapy

  • Born from philosophy
    • A phenomenological philosophy of “humanness”
    • Humans are in a constant state of transition, evolving and becoming
    • Clients are searching for meaning in their subjective worlds
  • Common questions/sources of existential angst for clients
    • “Who am I?”
    • “I will die.”
    • “What does it all mean?”
    • “Will I die alone?”
    • “How am I going to get to where I want to be in my life?”

Existential Therapy
A Philosophical/Intellectual Approach to Therapy

    • The capacity for self-awareness
    • The tension between freedom & responsibility
    • The creation of an identity & establishing meaningful relationships
    • The search for meaning
    • Accepting anxiety as a condition of living
    • The awareness of death and nonbeing
  • The Capacity for Self-Awareness
    • The greater our awareness, the greater our possibilities for freedom
  • Awareness is realizing that:
    • We are finite–time is limited
    • We have the potential and the choice, to act or not to act
    • Meaning is not automatic–we must seek it
    • We are subject to loneliness, meaninglessness, emptiness, guilt, and isolation

Identity and Relationship

  • Identity is “the courage to be”– We must trust ourselves to search within and find our own answers
    • Our great fear is that we will discover that there is no core, no self
    • Being existentially “alone” helps us to discover our authentic self
  • Relatedness– At their best our relationships are based on our desire for fulfillment, not our deprivation
    • Relationships that spring from our sense of deprivation are clinging, parasitic, and symbiotic
      • Clients must distinguish between neurotic dependence and the authentic need to be with others
    • Balancing aloneness and relatedness helps us develop a unique identity and live authentically in the moment

The Search for Meaning

  • Meaning– like pleasure, meaning must be pursued obliquely
    • Finding meaning in life is a by-product of a commitment to creating, loving, and working
  • “The will to meaning” is our primary striving
    • Life is not meaningful in itself; the individual must create and discover meaning

Anxiety – A Condition of Living

  • Existential anxiety is normal – life cannot be lived, nor can death be faced, without anxiety
  • Existential therapists help clients develop a healthy view of anxiety
    • Anxiety can be a stimulus for growth as we become aware of and accept our freedom
    • Anxiety can be a catalyst for living authentically and fully
    • We can blunt our anxiety by creating the illusion that there is security
      in life
    • If we have the courage to face ourselves and life we may be frightened, but we will be able to change

Goals of Existential Psychotherapy

  • Helping clients to accept their freedom and responsibility to act
  • Assisting people in coming to terms with the crises in their lives
  • Encouraging clients to recognize the ways in which they are not living fully authentic lives
  • Inviting clients to become more honest with themselves
  • Broadening clients’ awareness of their choices
  • Facilitating the client’s search for purpose and meaning in life
  • Assisting clients in developing a deep understanding of themselves and the ways they can effectively communicate with others


Relationship Between Therapist and Client

  • Therapy is a journey taken by therapist and client
    • The person-to-person relationship is key
    • The relationship demands that therapists be in contact with their own phenomenological world
  • The core of the therapeutic relationship
    • Respect and faith in the clients’ potential to cope
    • Sharing reactions with genuine concern and empathy


Application to Group Counseling

  • Provides an ideal environment for therapeutic work on responsibility
    • Clients are responsible for their behavior in group
    • Group settings provide a mirror of how clients may act in the world
    • Through feedback members learn to view themselves through another’s eyes
    • Members learn how their behavior affects others


Builds interpersonal skills

  • Provides members with the opportunity to be fully themselves while relating to others
  • Creates an opportunity to relate to others in meaningful ways


Provides an opportunity to explore the paradoxes of existence

  • Learning to experience anxiety as a reality of the human condition
    • Making choices in the face of uncertainty
    • Discovering there are no ultimate answers for ultimate concerns


Limitations of Existential Psychotherapy

  • The individualistic focus may not fit within the world views of clients from a collectivistic culture
  • The high focus on self-determination may not fully account for real-life limitations of those who are oppressed and have limited choices
  • Some clients prefer a more directive approach to counseling
  • The approach may prove difficult for clients who experience difficulty conceptualizing or have limited intellectual capacities
  • The approach does not focus on specific techniques, making treatments difficult to standardize
  • Limited empirical support


Person-Centered View of Human Nature

(A reaction against the directive and psychoanalytic approaches)

  • At their core, humans are trustworthy and positive
  • Humans are capable of making changes and living productive, effective lives
  • Humans innately gravitate toward self-actualization
    • Actualizing tendency
  • Given the right growth-fostering conditions, individuals strive to move forward and fulfill their creative nature


Person-Centered Therapy Challenges:

  • The assumption that “the counselor knows best”
  • The validity of advice, suggestion, persuasion, teaching, diagnosis,
    and interpretation
  • The belief that clients cannot understand and resolve their own problems without direct help
  • The focus on problems over persons


Person-Centered Therapy Emphasizes:

  • Therapy as a journey shared by two fallible people
  • The person’s innate striving for self-actualization
  • The personal characteristics of the therapist and the quality of the therapeutic relationship
  • The counselor’s creation of a permissive, “growth-promoting” climate
  • People are capable of self-directed growth if involved in a therapeutic relationship


Therapy is a Growth-Promoting Climate

  • Congruence
    • Genuineness or realness in the therapy session
    • Therapist’s behaviors match his or her words
  • Unconditional positive regard
    • Acceptance and genuine caring about the client as a valuable person
    • Accepting clients as they presently are
    • Therapist need not approve of all client behavior
  • Accurate empathic understanding
    • The ability to deeply grasp the client’s subjective world
    • Helper attitudes are more important than knowledge
      • The therapist need not experience the situation to develop an understanding of it from the client’s perspective

Six Conditions
(necessary and sufficient for personality changes to occur)

  1. Two persons are in psychological contact
  2. The first, the client, is experiencing incongruence
  3. The second person, the therapist, is congruent or integrated in the relationship
  4. The therapist experiences unconditional positive regard or real caring for the client
  5. The therapist experiences empathy for the client’s internal frame of reference and endeavors to communicate this to the client
  6. The communication to the client is, to a minimal degree, achieved

The Therapist

  • Focuses on the quality of the therapeutic relationship
  • Provides a supportive therapeutic environment in which the client is the agent of change and healing
  • Serves as a model of a human being struggling toward greater realness
  • Is genuine, integrated, and authentic, without a false front
  • Can openly express feelings and attitudes that are present in the relationship with the client
  • Is invested in developing his or her own life experiences to deepen self- knowledge and move toward self-actualization

Application to Group Counseling

  • Therapist takes on the role of facilitator
  • Creates therapeutic environment
  • Techniques are not stressed
  • Exhibits deep trust of the group members
  • Provides support for members
  • Group members set the goals for the group
  • Group setting fosters an open and accepting community where members can work on self-acceptance
  • Individuals learn that they do not have to experience the process of change alone and grow from the support of group members


Person-Centered Expressive Arts Therapy

  • Various creative art forms
    • promote healing and self-discovery
    • are inherently healing and promote self-awareness and insight
  • Creative expression connects us to our feelings which are a source of life energy.
    • Feelings must be experienced to achieve self-awareness.
  • Individuals explore new facets of the self and uncover insights that transform them, creating wholeness
    • Discovery of wholeness leads to understanding of how we relate to the outer world.
  • The client’s inner world and outer world become unified.


Conditions for Creativity

  • Acceptance of the individual
  • A non-judgmental setting
  • Empathy
  • Psychological freedom
  • Stimulating and challenging experiences
  • Individuals who have experienced unsafe creative environments feel “held back” and may disengage from creative processes
  • Safe, creative environments give clients permission to be authentic and to delve deeply into their experiences


Limitations of the Person-Centered Approach

  • Cultural considerations
    • Some clients may prefer a more directive, structured treatment
    • Individuals accustomed to indirect communication may not be comfortable with direct expression of empathy or creativity
    • Individuals from collectivistic cultures may disagree with the emphasis on internal locus of control
  • Does not focus on the use of specific techniques, making this treatment difficult to standardize
  • Beginning therapists may find it difficult to provide both support and challenges to clients
  • Limits of the therapist as a person may interfere with developing a genuine therapeutic relationship


Gestalt Therapy

  • Existential & Phenomenological – it is grounded in the client’s “here and now”
  • Initial goal is for clients to gain awareness of what they are experiencing and doing now
    • Promotes direct experiencing rather than the abstractness of talking about situations
    • Rather than talk about a childhood trauma the client is encouraged to become the hurt child

Principles of Gestalt Theory

  • Holism:
    • The full range of human functioning includes thoughts, feelings, behaviors, body, language and dreams
  • Field theory:
    • The field is the client’s environment which consists of therapist and client and all that goes on between them
    • Client is a participant in a constantly changing field
  • Figure Formation Process:
    • How an individual organizes experiences from moment to moment
      • Foreground: figure
      • Background: ground
    • Organismic self-regulation:
      • Emergence of need sensations and interest disturb an individual’s equilibrium

The Now

  • Our “power is in the present”
    • Nothing exists except the “now”
    • The past is gone and the future has not yet arrived
  • For many people the power of the present is lost
    • They may focus on their past mistakes or engage in endless resolutions and plans for the future


Unfinished Business

  • Feelings about the past are unexpressed
    • These feelings are associated with distinct memories and fantasies
    • Feelings not fully experienced linger in the background and interfere with effective contact
  • Result:
    • Preoccupation, compulsive behavior, wariness oppressive energy and self-defeating behavior

Contact and Resistances to Contact

  • Contact
    • Interacting with nature and with other people without losing one’s individuality
  • Boundary Disturbances/ resistance to contact
    • The defenses we develop to prevent us from experiencing the present fully
      • Five major channels of resistance:
        • Introjection Deflection
        • Projection Confluence
        • Retroflection

Six Components of Gestalt Therapy Methodology

  • The continuum of experience
  • The here and now
  • The paradoxical theory of change
  • The experiment
  • The authentic encounter
  • Process-oriented diagnosis


Therapeutic Techniques

  • The experiment in Gestalt Therapy
  • Internal dialogue exercise
  • Rehearsal exercise
  • Reversal technique
  • Exaggeration exercise
  • Staying with the feeling
  • Making the rounds
  • Dream work


Application to Group Counseling

  • Encourages direct experience and action
  • Here-and-now focus allows members to bring unfinished business to the present
  • Members try out experiments within the group setting
  • Leaders can use linking to include members in the exploration of a particular individual’s problem
  • Leaders actively design experiments for the group while focusing on awareness and contact
  • Group leaders actively engage with the members to form a sense of mutuality in the group
  • Limitations of Gestalt Therapy
  • The approach has the potential for the therapist to abuse power by using powerful techniques without proper training
  • This approach may not be useful for clients who have difficulty abstracting and imagining
  • The emphasis on therapist authenticity and self-disclosure may be overpowering for some clients
  • The high focus on emotion may pose limitations for clients who have been culturally conditioned to be emotionally reserved


Behavior Therapy

  • A set of clinical procedures relying on experimental findings of psychological research
  • Based on principles of learning that are systematically applied
    • Treatment goals are specific and measurable
  • Focusing on the client’s current problems
  • To help people change maladaptive to adaptive behaviors
  • The therapy is largely educational – teaching clients skills of self-management
  • Exposure Therapies
  • In Vivo Desensitization
  • Brief and graduated exposure to an actual fear situation or event
    • Flooding
  • Prolonged & intensive in vivo or imaginal exposure to stimuli that evoke high levels of anxiety, without the opportunity to avoid them
    • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
      • An exposure-based therapy that involves imaginal flooding, cognitive restructuring, and the use of rhythmic eye movements and other bilateral stimulation to treat traumatic stress disorders and fearful memories of clients

Four Aspects of Behavior Therapy

  1. Classical Conditioning
  • In classical conditioning certain respondent behaviors, such as knee jerks and salivation, are elicited from a passive organism
  1. Operant Conditioning
  • Focuses on actions that operate on the environment to produce consequences
  • If the environmental change brought about by the behavior is reinforcing, the chances are strengthened that the behavior will occur again. If the environmental changes produce no reinforcement, the chances are lessened that the behavior will recur
  1. Social-Learning Approach
  • Gives prominence to the reciprocal interactions between an individual’s behavior and the environment
  1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy
  • Emphasizes cognitive processes and private events (such as a client’s self-talk) as mediators of behavior change
  • A-B-C model
    • Antecedent(s)
    • Behavior(s)
    • Consequence(s)

Functional Assessment of Behavior

A-B-C model

Antecedent(s)        =      Behavior(s)     =     Consequence(s)

Therapeutic Techniques

  • Relaxation Training – to cope with stress
  • Systematic Desensitization – for anxiety and avoidance reactions
  • Modeling – observational learning
  • Assertion Training– learning to express one’s self
  • Social Skills Training– learning to correct deficits in interpersonal skills
  • Self-Management Programs – “giving psychology away”
  • Multimodal Therapy – a technical eclecticism
  • Applied Behavior Analysis— training new behaviors
  • Particularly effective in working with developmentally delayed individuals
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy– learning emotional regulation and mindfulness
  • Designed for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy – meditation and yoga
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – learning acceptance and non-judgment of thoughts and feelings as they occur

Limitations of Behavior Therapy

  • Heavy focus on behavioral change may detract from client’s experience of emotions
  • Some counselors believe the therapist’s role as a teacher deemphasizes the important relational factors in the client-therapist relationship
  • Behavior therapy does not place emphasis on insight
  • Behavior therapy tends to focus on symptoms rather than underlying causes of maladaptive behaviors
  • There is potential for the therapist to manipulate the client using this approach
  • Some clients may find the directive approach imposing or too mechanistic

The Cognitive Behavioral Therapies


Ellis (REBT),

Aaron Beck (Cognitive Therapy), and

Donald Meichenbaum (Cognitive Behavior Modification (CBM)

Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), Albert Ellis

  • Stresses thinking, judging, deciding, analyzing, and doing
  • Assumes that cognitions, emotions, and behaviors interact and have a reciprocal cause-and-effect relationship
  • Is highly didactic, very directive, and concerned as much with thinking as with feeling
  • Teaches that our emotions stem mainly from our beliefs, evaluations, interpretations, and reactions to life situations
  • The Therapeutic Process
  • Therapy is seen as an educational process
  • Clients learn
  • To identify the interplay of their thoughts, feelings and behaviors
  • To identify and dispute irrational beliefs that are maintained by self-indoctrination
  • To replace ineffective ways of thinking with effective and rational cognitions
  • To stop absolutistic thinking, blaming, and repeating false beliefs
  • View of Human Nature
  • We are born with a potential for both rational and irrational thinking
    • We have the biological and cultural tendency to think crookedly and to needlessly disturb ourselves
    • We learn and invent disturbing beliefs and keep ourselves disturbed through our self-talk
    • We have the capacity to change our cognitive, emotive, and behavioral processes
  • The A-B-C Theory of Personality
  • Irrational Ideas
    • Irrational ideas lead to self-defeating behavior
      • Some examples:
        • “I must have love or approval from all the significant people in my life.”
        • “I must perform important tasks competently and perfectly.”
        • “If I don’t get what I want, it’s terrible, and I can’t stand it.”

Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy (CT)

  • Insight-focused therapy
  • Emphasizes changing negative thoughts and maladaptive beliefs
  • Theoretical Assumptions
    • People’s internal communication is accessible to introspection
    • Clients’ beliefs have highly personal meanings
    • These meanings can be discovered by the client rather than being taught or interpreted by the therapist
  • Theory, Goals & Principles of CT
    • Basic theory:
      • To understand the nature of an emotional episode or disturbance it is essential to focus on the cognitive content of an individual’s reaction to the upsetting event or stream of thoughts
    • Goals:
      • To change the way clients think by using their automatic thoughts to reach the core schemata and begin to introduce the idea of schema restructuring
    • Principles:
      • Automatic thoughts: personalized notions that are triggered by particular stimuli that lead to emotional responses
    • CT’s Cognitive Distortions
      • Arbitrary inferences
      • Selective abstraction
      • Overgeneralization
      • Magnification and minimization
      • Personalization
      • Labeling and mislabeling
      • Polarized thinking
    • Beck’s Cognitive Triad
      • Pattern that triggers depression
        1. Clients hold negative views of themselves
          • “I am a lousy person”
        2. Selective Abstraction
          • Client interprets life events through a negative filter
          • “The world is a negative place where bad things are bound to happen to me”
        3. Client holds a gloomy vision of the future
          • “The world is bleak and it isn’t going to improve”

Donald Meichenbaum’s Cognitive Behavior Modification (CBM)

  • Focus:
  • Client’s self-verbalizations or self-statements
  • Premise:
  • As a prerequisite to behavior change, clients must notice how they think, feel, and behave, and what impact they have on others
  • Basic assumption:
  • Distressing emotions are typically the result of maladaptive thoughts
  • Self-instructional therapy focus:
    • Trains clients to modify the instructions they give to themselves so that they can cope
    • Emphasis is on acquiring practical coping skills
  • Cognitive structure:
    • The organizing aspect of thinking, which seems to monitor and direct the choice of thoughts
    • The “executive processor,” which “holds the blueprints of thinking” that determine when to continue, interrupt, or change thinking
  • Behavior Change & Coping (CBM)
    • 3 Phases of Behavior Change
  1. Self-observation
  2. Starting a new internal dialogue
  3. Learning new skills
  • Coping skills programs– Stress inoculation training
    (3 phase model)
  1. The conceptual phase
  2. Skills acquisition and rehearsal phase
  3. Application and follow-through phase

Limitations of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

  • Extensive training is required to practice CBT
    • Therapist may misuse power by imposing their ideas of what constitutes “rational” thinking on a client
  • Therapists must take special care to encourage clients to act rationally within the framework their own value system and cultural context
  • The strong confrontational style of Ellis’ REBT may overwhelm some clients
  • Some clinicians think CBT interventions overlook the value of exploring a client’s past experiences


Reality Therapy

Basic Beliefs

  • Symptoms are the result of choices we’ve made in our lives
  • We can chose to think, feel and behave differently
  • Emphasis is on personal responsibility
  • Therapist’s function is to keep therapy focused on the present
  • We often mistakenly choose misery in our best attempt to meet our needs
  • We act responsibly when we meet our needs without keeping others from meeting their needs

Basic Needs

  • All internally motivated behavior is geared toward meeting one or more of our basic human needs
    • Belonging
    • Power
    • Freedom
    • Fun
    • Survival (Physiological needs)
  • Our brain functions as a control system to get us what we want
  • Our quality world consists of our visions of specific people, activities, events, beliefs and situations that will fulfill our needs

Procedures That Lead to Change:
The “WDEP” System

W  Wants – What do you want to be and do?

Your “picture album”

D  Doing and Direction – What are you doing?

Where do you want to go?

E  Evaluation – Does your present behavior have a reasonable
chance of getting you what you want?

P  Planning – “SAMIC3

Planning For Change

S             Simple – Easy to understand, specific and concrete

A            Attainable – Within the capacities and motivation
of the client

M          Measurable – Are the changes observable and helpful?

I              Immediate and Involved – What can be done today?
What can you do?

C            Controlled – Can you do this by yourself or will
you be dependent on others?

– Can you do this on a continuous basis?

Total Behavior
Our Best Attempt to Satisfy Our Needs

  • DOING – active behaviors
  • THINKING – thoughts, self-statements
  • FEELINGS – anger, joy, pain, anxiety
  • PHYSIOLOGY – bodily reactions

Limitations of Reality Therapy

  • Some feel it does not adequately address important psychological concepts such as insight, the unconscious, dreams and transference
  • Clinicians may have trouble viewing all psychological disorders (including serious mental illness) as behavioral choices
  • There is a danger for the therapist of imposing his or her personal views on clients by deciding for the client what constitutes responsible behavior
  • Reality therapy is often construed as simple and easy to master when in fact it requires much training to implement properly.
  • More empirical support is needed


Feminist Theory

Key Concepts

  • Problems are viewed in a sociopolitical and cultural context
  • Acknowledging psychological oppression imposed through sociopolitical status of women and minorities
  • The client knows what is best for her life and is the expert on her
    own life
  • Emphasis is on educating clients about the therapy process
  • Traditional ways of assessing psychological health are challenged
  • It is assumed that individual change will best occur through
    social change
  • Clients are encouraged to take social action

Four Approaches to Feminist Therapy

  1. Liberal Feminism
    • Focus
      • Helping individual women overcome the limits and constraints of their socialization patterns
    • Major goals
      • Personal empowerment of individual women
      • Dignity
      • Self-fulfillment
      • Equality
  1. Cultural Feminism
  • Focus
    • Oppression stems from society’s devaluation of women’s strengths
    • Emphasize the differences between women and men
    • Believe the solution to oppression lies in feminization of the culture
    • Society becomes more nurturing, cooperative, and relational
  • Major goal
    • the infusion of society with values based on cooperation
  1. Radical Feminism
  • Focus
    • The oppression of women that is embedded in patriarchy
    • Seek to change society through activism
    • Therapy is viewed as a political enterprise with the goal of transformation of society
  • Major goals
    • Transform gender relationships
    • Transform societal institutions
    • Increase women’s sexual and procreative self-determination.
  1. Socialist Feminism
  • Focus
    • Goal of societal change
    • Emphasis on multiple oppressions
    • Believe solutions to society’s problems must include consideration of:
      • Class
      • Race
      • Other forms of discrimination
    • Major goal
      • to transform social relationships and institutions

Principles of Feminist Therapy

  • The personal is political
  • Personal and social identities are interdependent
  • Commitment to social change
  • The counseling relationship is egalitarian
  • Women’s  and girls’ experiences and ways of knowing are honored
  • Definitions of distress and “mental illness” are reformulated
  • There is an integrated analysis of oppression

Goals of Feminist Therapy

  • To affirm diversity and strive for social change and equality
  • To encourage clients to act as advocates on their own behalf and on the behalf of others
  • To become aware of one’s gender-role socialization process
  • To identify internalized gender-role messages and replace them with functional beliefs
  • To acquire skills to bring about change in the environment
  • To develop a wide range of behaviors that are freely chosen
  • To become personally empowered

Intervention Techniques in Feminist Therapy

  • Gender-role analysis and intervention
    • To help clients understand the impact of gender-role expectations in their lives
    • Provides clients with insight into the ways social issues affect their problems
  • Power analysis and power intervention
    • Emphasis on the power differences between men and women in society
    • Clients helped to recognize different kinds of power they possess and how they and others exercise power
  • Intervention Techniques in Feminist Therapy
  • Bibliotherapy
    • Reading assignments that address issues such as
      • Coping skills                                       • Gender inequality
      • Gender-role stereotypes                             • Ways sexism is promoted
      • Power differential                           • Society’s obsession

between women and men             with thinness

      • Sexual assault
    • Self-disclosure
      • To help equalize the therapeutic relationship and provide modeling for the client
      • Values, beliefs about society, and therapeutic interventions discussed
        • Allows the client to make an informed choice
  • Assertiveness training
    • Women become aware of their interpersonal rights
    • Transcends stereotypical sex roles
    • Changes negative beliefs
    • Implement changes in their daily lives
  • Reframing
    • Changes the frame of reference for looking at an individual’s behavior
      • Shifting from an intrapersonal to an interpersonal definition of a client’s problem
  • Relabeling
    • Changes the label or evaluation applied to the client’s behavioral characteristics
    • Generally, the focus is shifted from a negative to a positive evaluation
  • Social Action
    • Encourages clients to embrace social activism
    • Develops clients’ thorough understanding of feminism  by building a link between their experiences and the sociopolitical context they live in

Diversity in Feminist Approaches

  • Postmodern feminists provide a model for critiquing both traditional and feminist approaches
  • Women of color feminists assert that it is essential that feminist theory be broadened and be made more inclusive
  • Lesbian feminists call for inclusion of an analysis of multiple identities and their relationship to oppression
  • Global/international feminists take a worldwide perspective in examining women’s experiences across national boundaries

Limitations of Feminist Psychotherapy

  • Therapists do not take a value neutral stance
  • Therapists must be careful not to impose their cultural values on a client
  • Therapists may challenge societal values that subordinate certain groups without first gaining a clear understanding of the client’s culture.  This may alienate clients.
  • The heavy environmental/sociopolitical focus may detract from exploring a client’s intrapsychic experiences
  • More empirical support is needed for this approach

Social Constructionist (Postmodern) Theories

Key Concepts of Social Constructionism

  • Postmodernists assume there are multiple truths
  • Reality is subjective and is based on the use of language
  • Postmodernists strive for a collaborative and consultative stance
  • Postmodern thought has an impact on the development of many theories
  • The client, not the therapist, is the expert
  • Dialogue is used to elicit perspective, resources, and unique client experiences
  • Questions empower clients to speak and to express their diverse positions
  • The therapist supplies optimism and the process

Therapy Goals

  • Generate new meaning in the lives of clients
  • Co-develop, with clients, solutions that are unique to the situation
  • Enhance awareness of the impact of various aspects of the dominant culture on the individual
  • Help people develop alternative ways of being, acting, knowing,
    and living

Narrative Therapy

  • Focuses on the stories people tell about themselves and others about significant events in their lives


Therapeutic task:

  • Help clients appreciate how they construct their realities and how they author their own stories

Key Concepts of Narrative Therapy

  • Listen to clients with an open mind
  • Encourage clients to share their stories
  • Listen to a problem-saturated story of a client without getting stuck
  • Therapists demonstrate respectful curiosity and persistence
  • The person is not the problem, but the problem is the problem

The Therapeutic Process in Narrative Therapy

  • Collaborate with the client in identifying (naming) the problem
  • Separate the person from his or her problem
  • Investigate how the problem has been disrupting or dominating
    the person
  • Search for exceptions to the problem
  • Ask clients to speculate about what kind of future they could
    expect from the competent person that is emerging
  • Create an audience to support the new story

The Functions of the Narrative Therapist

  • To become active facilitators
  • To demonstrate care, interest, respectful curiosity, openness, empathy, contact, and fascination
  • To believe in the client’s abilities, talents and positive intentions
  • To adopt a not-knowing position that allows being guided by the client’s story
  • To help clients construct a preferred story line
  • To create a collaborative relationship– with the client being the senior partner

The Role of Questions in Narrative Therapy

  • Questions are used as a way to generate experience rather than to gather information
  • Questions are always asked from a position of respect, curiosity, and openness
  • Therapists ask questions from a not-knowing stance
  • By asking questions, therapists assist clients in exploring dimensions of their life situations
  • Questions can lead to taking apart problem-saturated stories


  • Living life means relating to problems, not being fused with them
  • Externalization is a process of separating the person from identifying with the problem
  • Externalizing conversations help people in freeing themselves from being identified with the problem
  • Externalizing conversations can lead clients in recognizing times when they have dealt successfully with the problem

Deconstruction and Creating Alternative Stories

  • Problem-saturated stories are deconstructed (taken apart) before new stories are co-created
  • The assumption is that people can continually and actively re-author their lives
  • Unique possibility questions enable clients to focus on their future
  • An appreciative audience helps new stories to take root

Limitations of Postmodern Approaches

  • Therapists must be skilled in implementing brief interventions
  • Therapists may employ techniques in a mechanistic fashion
  • Reliance on techniques may detract from building a therapeutic relationship
  • Narrative therapists must be careful to approach client’s stories without imposing a preconceived notion of the client’s experiences
  • For some individuals, the therapist’s “not knowing stance” may compromise the client’s confidence in the therapist as an expert
  • More empirical research is needed

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

Key Concepts

  • Therapy grounded on a positive orientation– people are healthy and competent
  • Past is downplayed, while present and future are highlighted
  • Therapy is concerned with looking for what is working
  • Therapists assist clients in finding exceptions to their problems
  • There is a shift from “problem-orientation” to “solution-focus”
  • Emphasis is on constructing solutions rather than problem solving

Basic Assumption

  • The problem itself may not be relevant to finding effective solutions
  • People can create their own solutions
  • Small changes lead to large changes
  • The client is the expert on his or her own life
  • The best therapy involves a collaborative partnership
  • A therapist’s not knowing afford the client an opportunity to construct a solution

Questions in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

  • Skillful questions allow people to utilize their resources
  • Asking “how questions” that imply change can be useful
  • Effective questions focus attention on solutions
  • Questions can get clients to notice when things were better
  • Useful questions assist people in paying attention to what they
    are doing
  • Questions can open up possibilities for clients to do something different

Three Kinds of Relationships in Solution-Focused Therapy

  • Customer-type relationship: client and therapist jointly identify a problem and a solution to work toward
  • Complainant relationship: a client who describes a problem, but is not able or willing to take an active role in constructing a solution
  • Visitors: clients who come to therapy because someone else thinks they have a problem

Techniques Used in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

  • Pre-therapy change
    • (What have you done since you made the appointment that has made a difference in your problem?)
  • Exception questions
    • (Direct clients to times in their lives when the problem did not exist)
  • Miracle question
    • (If a miracle happened and the problem you have was solved while you were asleep, what would be different in your life?)
  • Scaling questions
    • (On a scale of zero to 10, where  zero is the worst you have been and 10 represents the problem being solved, where are you with respect to __________?)

The Family Systems Perspective

  • Individuals– are best understood through assessing the interactions within an entire family
  • Symptoms– are viewed as an expression of a dysfunction within a family
  • Problematic behaviors–
    • Serve a purpose for the family
    • Are a function of the family’s inability to operate productively
    • Are symptomatic patterns handed down across generations
  • A family– is an interactional unit and a change in one member effects all members

Adlerian Family Therapy

  • Adlerians use an educational model to counsel families
  • Emphasis is on family atmosphere and family constellation
  • Therapists function as collaborators who seek to join the family
  • Parent interviews yield hunches about the purposes underlying children’s misbehavior

Adlerian Family Therapy Treatment Goals

  • Unlock mistaken goals and interactional patterns
  • Engage parents in a learning experience and a collaborative assessment
  • Emphasis is on the family’s motivational patterns
  • Main aim is to initiate a reorientation of the family

Multigenerational Family Therapy

Murray Bowen (Transgenerational Family Therapy)

  • The application of rational thinking to emotionally saturated systems
    • A well-articulated theory is considered to be essential
  • With the proper knowledge the individual can change
    • Change occurs only with other family members
  • Differentiation of the self
    • A psychological separation from others
  • Triangulation
    • A third party is recruited to reduce anxiety and stabilize a couples’ relationship

Multigenerational Family Therapy Treatment Goals

  • To change the individuals within the context of the system
  • To end generation-to-generation transmission of problems by resolving emotional attachments
  • To lessen anxiety and relieve symptoms
  • To increase the individual member’s level
    of differentiation

Human Validation Process Model

Virginia Satir

  • Enhancement and validation of self-esteem
  • Family rules
  • Congruence and openness in communications
  • Sculpting
  • Nurturing triads
  • Family mapping and chronologies

Human Validation Process Model Therapy Goals

  • Open communications
    • Individuals are allowed to honestly report their perceptions
  • Enhancement of self-esteem
    • Family decisions are based on individual needs
  • Encouragement of growth
    • Differences are acknowledged and seen as opportunities for growth
  • Transform extreme rules into useful and
    functional rules

    • Families have many spoken and unspoken rules

Experiential Family Therapy

  • A freewheeling, intuitive, sometimes outrageous approach
    aiming to:

    • Unmask pretense, create new meaning, and liberate family members to be themselves
  • Techniques are secondary to the therapeutic relationship
  • Pragmatic and atheoretical
  • Interventions create turmoil and intensify what is going on here and now in the family

Experiential Family Therapy Treatment Goals

  • Facilitate individual autonomy and a sense of belonging in
    the family
  • Help individuals achieve more intimacy by increasing their awareness and their experiencing
  • Encourage members to be themselves by freely expressing what they are thinking and feeling
  • Support spontaneity, creativity, the ability to play, and the willingness to be “crazy”

Structural Family Therapy

  • Focus is on family interactions to understand the structure, or organization of the family
  • Symptoms are a by-product of structural failings
  • Structural changes must occur in a family before an individual’s symptoms can be reduced
  • Techniques are active, directive, and well thought-out

Structural Family Therapy Treatment Goals

  • Reduce symptoms of dysfunction
  • Bring about structural change by:
    • Modifying the family’s transactional rules
    • Developing more appropriate boundaries
    • Creation of an effective hierarchical structure
      • It is assumed that faulty family structures have:
        • Boundaries that are rigid or diffuse
        • Subsystems that have inappropriate tasks and functions

Strategic Family Therapy

Jay Haley, Strategic Family Therapy “Therapy of the Absurd”

  • Focuses on solving problems in the present
  • Presenting problems are accepted as “real” and not a symptom of system dysfunction
  • Therapy is brief, process-focused, and solution-oriented
  • The therapist designs strategies for change
  • Change results when the family follows the therapist’s directions & change transactions

Strategic Family Therapy Treatment Goals

  • Resolve presenting problems by focusing on behavioral sequences
  • Get people to behave differently
  • Shift the family organization so that the presenting problem is no longer functional
  • Move the family toward the appropriate stage of family development
    • Problems often arise during the transition from one developmental stage to the next

Limitations of the Family Systems Approach

  • An overemphasis on the system may result in the unique characteristics of the individual family members being overlooked
  • Concern with the well-being and function of the system may overshadow the therapist’s view of the needs and functioning of the individuals in the system
  • Practitioners are cautioned not to assume that Western models of family are universal and must be culturally competent
  • Therapists with a Westernized view of the family may inadvertently overlook the importance of extended family when working with families from other cultures


Myth of Hypothalamic Hunger and Satiety Centers

Myth of Hypothalamic Hunger and Satiety Centers

  • (Dual centre hypothesis) Eating behavior is controlled by two different regions of the hypothalamus
    • Satiety Centre: Ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH)
    • Feeding / Hunger Centre: Lateral hypothalamus (LH)


VMH Satiety Center

  • 1940 (Hetherington & Ranson): Large bilateral electrolytic lesions to the ventromedial hypothalamus produce hyperphagia (excessive eating) and extreme obesity in rats
  • Two different phases of the VMH syndrome
    • Dynamic phase
      • Begins as soon as the subject regains consciousness after the operation
      • Several weeks of grossly excessive eating and rapid weight gain
      • Consumption gradually declines to a level that is just sufficient to maintain a stable level of obesity (beginning of the static phase)
    • Static phase
      • Consumption gradually declines to a level that is just sufficient to maintain a stable level of obesity (beginning of the static phase)
      • Animal maintains its new body weight
        • If a rat in the static phase is deprived of food until it has lost its substantial amount of weight, it will regain the lost weight once deprivation ends
        • If it is made to gain weight by forced feeding, it will lose the excessive weight once the forced feeding is curtailed
      • VMH-lesioned rats seem less hungry than unlesioned controls
        • VMH-lesioned rats eat much more than normal rats when palatable food is readily available
        • Less willing to work for it (Teitelbaum, 1957) or to consume it if it is slightly unpalatable (Miller, Bailey, & Stevenson, 1950)
      • Finicky eating of VMH-lesioned rats is a consequence of their obesity, not a primary effect of their lesion (Weingarten, Chang, and Jarvie)
        • No less likely to consume unpalatable food than are unlesioned rats of equal obesity


LH Feeding Center

  • 1951 (Anand & Brobeck): Bilateral electrolytic lesions to the lateral hypothalamus produce aphagia
    • Aphagia: a complete cessation of eating
    • Rats that were first made hyperphagic by VMH lesions were rendered aphagic by the addition of LH lesions
    • Lateral region of the hypothalamus is a feeding center
  • Aphagia is accompanied by adipsia
    • Adipsia: a complete cessation of drinking
    • LH-lesioned rats partially recover if they are kept alive by tube feeding
      • At first, the rats eat wet, palatable foods, such as chocolate chip cookies soaked in milk
      • Eventually, they will eat dry food pellets if water is concurrently available



Glucostatic Theory


Reinterpretation of the Effects of VMH and LH Lesions

  • VMH: Satiety center crumbled in the face of two lines of evidence
    • First, the primary role of the hypothalamus is the regulation of energy metabolism, not the regulation of eating
      • VMH-lesioned animals become obese because they overeat vs. they overeat because they become obese
      • Bilateral VMH lesions increase blood insulin levels, which increases lipogenesis and decreases lipolysis
        • Lipogenesis: production of body fat
        • Lipolysis: breaking down of body fat to utilizable forms of energy
        • Both are likely to be the result of the increases in insulin levels, that occur following the lesion
        • Because the calories ingested by VMH-lesioned rats are converted to fat at a high rate, the rats must keep eating to meet their energy requirement
      • Second level of evidence showed that many of the effects of VMH lesions are not attributable to VMH damage
        • Two areas that have been investigated: arcuate nuclei and paraventricular nuclei
          • Arcuate nuclei: Regulates feeding behavior
            • Agouti-related protein (AgRP), which are neurotransmitters released by neuropeptide neurons located in the arcuate nucleus, strongly stimulate food intake
            • Other neuron groups produce two substances that can cause an appetite suppressing reponse – cocaine and ampethamine regulated transcript (CART) and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)
            • Gut peptides, which signals to the hypothalamus via the arcuate nuclei, also provide appetite modifying neurotransmitters such as the opioid peptides and alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone ( -MSH)
          • Paraventricular nuclei (PVN): A large fiber bundle, the ventral noradrenergic bundle, courses past the VMH and is thus inevitably damaged by large electrolytic VMH lesions –particularly fibers that project from the nearby PVN
            • PVN contains nerve cells which release corticotrophin releasing hormone that projects to the arcuate nucleus and locus coeruleus
          • Stimulation of the PVN produces hyperphagia and obesity, just as VMH lesions do
            • Microinjections of noradrenaline into the PVN increases carbohydrate consumption
            • NPY stimulation to the PVN triggers increase in daily intake of carbohydrates and fat resulting in dramatic weight gain in female rats
          • LH is a feeding center (early research – focused on aphagia and adipsia) vs. LH lesions produce a wide range of severe motor disturbances and a general lack of responsiveness to sensory input (subsequent research) à LH is a center specifically dedicated to feeding



Amnesia for Alzheimer’s Disease

– It is a deficit in memory caused by brain damage, disease, or psychological trauma.

– Can also be caused temporarily by the use of various sedatives and hypnotic drugs.

– Essentially, amnesia is loss of memory.

 Organic or neurological causes

 Functional or Psychogenic causes

– The hippocampus is a horse-shoe shaped area of the brain that plays an important role in consolidating information from short-term memory and forming long-term memory.

Hippocampal Damage

 Damage to Hippocampal region results in a failure to remember and may loss ability to form

 May also results to remember spatial layouts or landmarks.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

 It is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.

 It is a severe form of senility marked by advanced memory loss.

 Was first identified and named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer.

Alzheimer’s Disease and the Brain

Alzheimer’s disease leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. Over time, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all its functions.

In the Alzheimer’s brain:

● The cortex shrivels up, damaging areas involved in thinking, planning and remembering.

● Shrinkage is especially severe in the hippocampus, an area of the cortex that plays a key role in formation of new memories.

● Ventricles (fluid-filled spaces within the brain) grow larger.

I. Causes of Alzheimer’s disease

Neurologically, AD is characterized by a loss of neuron and synapses in the cerebral cortex and certain sub-cortical regions of the brain.

Two abnormal structures called plaquesand tangles are prime suspects in damaging and killing new memories.


 Plaquesare deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid that build up in the spaces between nerve cells.

 Tanglesare twisted fibres of another protein called tau that build up inside cells.

II. Causes of Alzheimer’s disease

Reduced synthesis of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. May have caused the amnesia in

 Acetylcholine used in the communication between neurons in the brain.

 Ach secretion is considered below normal in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Stages of Alzheimer’s disease

I. Earliest Alzheimer’s- In the earliest stages, before symptoms can be detected with current tests, plaques and tangles begin to form in brain areas involved in:

 Learning and memory

 Thinking and planning

II.  Mild to Moderate Alzheimer’s Stages- Plaques and tangles also spread to areas involved in:

 Speaking and understanding speech

 Your sense of where your body is in relation to objects around you

As Alzheimer’s progresses, individuals may experience changes in personality and behavior and have trouble recognizing friends and family members.

III. Severe Alzheimer’s – Individuals lose their ability to communicate, to recognize family and loved ones and to care for themselves.

Alzheimer’s does not affect all memory capacities equally.

George Kelly’s Psychology of Personal Constructs

Overview of Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory

Kelly’s theory of personal constructs can be seen as a metatheory, or a theory about theories.  It holds that people anticipate events by the meanings or interpretations that they place on those events.  Kelly called these interpretations personal constructs.  His philosophical position, called constructive alternativism, assumes that alternative interpretations are always available to people.

  1. Biography of George Kelly

George Kelly was born on a farm in Kansas in 1905.  During his school years and his early professional career, he dabbled in a wide variety of jobs, but he eventually received a PhD in psychology from the University of Iowa.  He began his academic career at Fort Hays State College in Kansas; then after World War II, he took a position at Ohio State.  He remained there until 1965 when he joined the faculty at Brandeis University.  He died 2 years later at age 61.

III.    Kelly’s Philosophical Position

Kelly believed that people construe events according to their personal constructs, rather than reality.

  1. Person as Scientist

People generally attempt to solve everyday problems in much the same fashion as do scientists; that is, they observe, ask questions, formulate hypotheses, infer conclusions, and predict future events.

  1. Scientist as Person

Because scientists are people, their pronouncements should be regarded with the same skepticism as any other data.  Every scientific theory can be viewed from an alternate angle, and every competent scientist should be open to changing his or her theory.

  1. Constructive Alternativism

Kelly believed that all our interpretations of the world are subject to revision or replacement, an assumption he called constructive alternativism.  He further stressed that, because people can construe their world from different angles, observations that are valid at one time may be false at a later time.

  1. Personal Constructs

Kelly believed that people look at their world through templates that they create and then attempt to fit over the realities of the world.  He called these templates, or transparent patterns, personal constructs, which he believed shape behavior.

  1. Basic Postulate

Kelly expressed his theory in one basic postulate and 11 supporting corollaries.  The basic postulate assumes that human behavior is shaped by the way people anticipate the future.

  1. Supporting Corollaries

The 11 supporting corollaries can all be inferred from this basic postulate. (1) Although no two events are exactly alike, we construe similar events as if they were the same, and this is Kelly’s construction corollary. (2) The individuality corollary states that because people have different experiences, they can construe the same event in different ways. (3) The organizational corollary assumes that people organize their personal constructs in a hierarchical system, with some constructs in a superordinate position and other subordinate to them.  (4) The dichotomy corollary assumes that people construe events in an either/or manner, e.g., good or bad.  (5) Kelly’s choice corollary assumes that people tend to choose the alternative in a dichotomized construct that they see as extending the range of their future choices.  (6) The range corollary states that constructs are limited to a particular range of convenience; that is, they are not relevant to all situations.  (7) Kelly’s experience corollary suggests that people continually revise their personal constructs as the result of their experiences. (8) The modulation corollary assumes that only permeable constructs lead to change; concrete constructs resist modification through experience.  (9) The fragmentation corollary states that people’s behavior can be inconsistent because their construct systems can readily admit incompatible elements.  (10) The commonality corollary suggests that our personal constructs tend to be similar to the construction systems of other people to the extent that we share experiences with them.  (11) The sociality corollary states that people are able to communicate with other people because they can construe those people’s constructions.  With the sociality corollary, Kelly introduced the concept of role, which refers to a pattern of behavior that stems from people’s understanding of the constructs of others.  Each of us has a core role and numerous peripheral roles.  A core role gives us a sense of identity whereas peripheral roles are less central to our self-concept.

  1. Applications of Personal Construct Theory

Kelly’s many years of clinical experience enabled him to evolve concepts of abnormal development and psychotherapy, and to develop a Role Construct Repertory (Rep) Test.

  1. Abnormal Development

Kelly saw normal people as analogous to competent scientists who test reasonable hypotheses, objectively view the results, and willingly change their theories when the data warrant it.  Similarly, unhealthy people are like incompetent scientists who test unreasonable hypotheses, reject or distort legitimate results, and refuse to amend outdated theories. Kelly identified four common elements in most human disturbances: (1) threat, or the perception that one’s basic constructs may be drastically changed; (2) fear, which requires an incidental rather than a comprehensive, restructuring of one’s construct system; (3) anxiety, or the recognition that one cannot adequately deal with a new situation; and (4) guilt, defined as “the sense of having lost one’s core role structure.”

  1. Psychotherapy

Kelly insisted that clients should set their own goals for therapy and that they should be active participants in the therapeutic process.  He sometimes used a procedure called fixed-role therapy,  in which clients act out a predetermined role for several weeks. By playing the part of a psychologically healthy person, clients may discover previously hidden aspects of themselves.

  1. The Rep Test

The purpose of the Rep Test is to discover ways in which clients construe significant people in their lives.  Clients place names of people they know on a repertory grid in order to identify both similarities and differences among these people.

  1. Related Research

Kelly’s personal construct theory and his Rep Test have generated a substantial amount of empirical research in both the United States and the United Kingdom.  Although many researchers in the field of social cognition use conventional questionnaires, some have followed Kelly’s lead and use phenomenological or idiographic measures, such as the Rep test or some modified version of it (Neimeyer & Neimeyer, 1995).  More recent applications of the Rep test methodology have analyzed the different construct systems of sexually abused versus non-abused individuals (Lewis-Harter, Erbes, & Hart, 2004).


  1. Gender As a Personal Construct

In 2003, Marcel Harper and Wilhelm Schoeman reported on a study of college students in South Africa that had used the REP test to detect individual differences in the degree to which people internalize cultural views of gender.  The authors found that the less information someone has about a person, the more likely they will use stereotypic gender schemas to evaluate that person; that is, participants who used gender stereotypes in perceiving strangers tended to have limited perceptions of other people.

  1.    Smoking and Self-Concept

Previous research on self-concept and adolescent smoking has tended to find relatively negative self-concepts of smokers compared with non-smokers.  Specifically, smokers have more disparity between real and ideal self-concepts, as well as lower self-esteem (Burton, Sussman, Hansen, Johnson, & Flay, 1989; Webster, Hunger, & Keats, 1994).  But since people smoke for different reasons, an idiographic approach such as the Rep test was thought to be better than conventional measures for these differences.  Peter Weiss, Neill Watson, and Howard Mcguire (2003) used the REP test to investigate the hypothesis that smokers would identify with and rate their own personalities more similar to the personality descriptions they have of other smokers than of non-smokers. They also predicted a lower self-concept for smokers than non-smokers.  As predicted, both smokers and non-smokers identified with and valued more highly the traits of non-smokers (such as quiet, studious, etc.) than of smokers. However, the prediction that smokers would have lower self-esteem (greater real versus ideal self disparity) did not hold.  Weiss et al concluded that not only is the Rep test useful for assessing self-concept, but it also may be a more valid and individualized tool than standard questionnaires.

  1. Personal Constructs and the Big Five

While recently researchers have been exploring connections between Kelly’s personal constructs and the Big Five personality traits, some personality psychologists disagree with the fact that Kelly’s constructs have not received as much attention as the Big Five.  James Grice and colleagues directly compared the two approaches (Grice, 2004; Grice, Jackson, & McDaniel, 2006).  They found only about 50% overlap; i.e., the repertory grid captured aspects the Big Five did not, and the Big Five captured aspects the repertory grid did not.  So while both approaches are important, and the Big Five framework has provided common descriptors that have facilitated a great deal of research, Kelly’s personal construct theory emphasizes the uniqueness of individuals, which is invaluable to the study of individual differences central to personality psychology.

VIII. Critique of Kelly

Kelly’s theory probably is most applicable to relatively normal, intelligent people.  Unfortunately, it pays scant attention to problems of motivation, development, and cultural influences.  On the six criteria of a useful theory, it rates very high on parsimony and internal consistency and about average on its ability to generate research.  However it rates low on its ability to be falsified, to guide the practitioner, and to organize knowledge.

  1. Concept of Humanity

Kelly saw people as anticipating the future and living their lives in accordance with those anticipations.  His concept of elaborative choice suggests that people increase their range of future choices by the present choices they freely make. Thus, Kelly’s theory rates very high in teleology and high in choice and optimism.  In addition, it receives high ratings for conscious influences and for its emphasis on the uniqueness of the individual.  Finally, personal construct theory is about average on social influences.

Rotter and Mischel’s Cognitive Social Learning Theory

Overview of Cognitive Social Learning Theory

Both Julian Rotter and Walter Mischel believe that cognitive factors, more than immediate reinforcements, determine how people will react to environmental forces.  Both theorists suggest that our expectations of future events are major determinants of performance.


  1. Biography of Julian Rotter

Julian Rotter was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1916.  As a high school student, he became familiar with some of the writings of Freud and Adler, but he majored in chemistry rather than psychology at Brooklyn College.  In 1941, he received a PhD in clinical psychology from Indiana University.  After World War II, he took a position at Ohio State, where one of his students was Walter Mischel.  In 1963, he moved to the University of Connecticut and has remained there since retirement.


III.       Introduction to Rotter’s Social Learning Theory

Rotter’s interactionist theory is based on five basic hypotheses.  First, it assumes that humans interact with their meaningful environments: that is, human behavior stems from the interaction of environmental and personal factors (Rotter).  Second, human personality is learned, which suggests it can be changed or modified as long as people are capable of learning. Third, personality has a basic unity, suggesting that personality has some basic stability. Fourth, motivation is goal directed, and fifth, people are capable of anticipating events, and thus they are capable of changing their environments and their personalities.


  1. Predicting Specific Behaviors

Rotter suggested four variables that must be analyzed in order to make accurate predictions in any specific situation.  These variables are behavior potential, expectancy, reinforcement value, and the psychological situation.


  1. Behavior Potential: Behavior potential is the possibility that a particular response will occur at a given time and place in relation to its likely reinforcement.
  2. Expectancy

People’s expectancy in any given situation is their confidence that a particular reinforcement will follow a specific behavior in a specific situation or situations.  Expectancies can be either general or specific, and the overall likelihood of success is a function of both generalized and specific expectancies.

  1. Reinforcement Value

Reinforcement value is a person’s preference for any particular reinforcement over other reinforcements if all are equally likely to occur. Internal reinforcement is the individual’s perception of an event, whereas external reinforcement refers to society’s evaluation of an event.  Reinforcement-reinforcement sequences suggest that the value of an event is a function of one’s expectation that a particular reinforcement will lead to future reinforcements.

  1. Psychological Situation

The psychological situation is that part of the external and internal world to which a person is responding.  Behavior is a function of the interaction of people with their meaningful environment.

  1. Basic Prediction Formula

Hypothetically, in any specific situation, behavior can be predicted by the basic prediction formula, which states that the potential for a behavior to occur in a particular situation in relation to a given reinforcement is a function of people’s expectancy that their behavior will be followed by that reinforcement in that situation.


  1. Predicting General Behaviors

The basic prediction is too specific to give clues about how a person will generally behave.

  1. Generalized Expectancies

To make more general predictions of behavior, one must know people’s generalized expectancies, or their expectations based on similar past experiences that a given behavior will be reinforced.  Generalized expectancies include people’s needs, that is, behaviors that move them toward a goal.

  1. Needs

Needs refer to functionally related categories of behaviors. Rotter listed six broad categories of needs, with each need being related to behaviors that lead to the same or similar reinforcements: (1) recognition-status refers to the need to excel, to achieve, and to have others recognize one’s worth; (2) dominance is the need to control the behavior of others, to be in charge, or to gain power over others; (3) independence is the need to be free from the domination of others; (4) protection-dependence is the need to have others take care of us and to protect us from harm; (5) love and affection are needs to be warmly accepted by others and to be held in friendly regard; and (6) physical comfort includes those behaviors aimed at securing food, good health, and physical security.  Three need components are: (1) need potential, or the possible occurrences of a set of functionally related behaviors directed toward the satisfaction of similar goals; (2) freedom of movement, or a       person’s overall expectation of being reinforced for performing those behaviors that are directed toward satisfying some general need; and (3) need value, or the extent to which people prefer one set of reinforcements to another.  Need components are analogous to the more specific concepts of behavior potential, expectancy, and reinforcement value.

  1. General Prediction Formula

The general prediction formula states that need potential is a function of freedom of movement and need value.  Rotter’s two most famous scales for measuring generalized expectancies are the Internal-External Control Scale and the Interpersonal Trust Scale.

  1. Internal and External Control of Reinforcement

The Internal-External Control Scale (popularly called “locus of control scale”) attempts to measure the degree to which people perceive a causal relationship between their own efforts and environmental consequences.

  1. Interpersonal Trust Scale: The Interpersonal Trust Scale measures the extent to which a person expects the word or promise of another person to be true.


  1. Maladaptive Behavior

Rotter defined maladaptive behavior as any persistent behavior that fails to move a person closer to a desired goal.  It is usually the result of unrealistically high goals in combination with low ability to achieve them.


VII.     Psychotherapy

In general, the goal of Rotter’s therapy is to achieve harmony between a client’s freedom of movement and need value.  The therapist is actively involved in trying to (1) change the client’s goals and (2) eliminate the client’s low expectancies for success.

  1. Changing Goals

Maladaptive behaviors follow from three categories of inappropriate goals: (1) conflict between goals, (2) destructive goals, and (3) unrealistically lofty goals.

  1. Eliminating Low Expectancies

In helping clients change low expectancies of success, Rotter uses a variety of approaches, including reinforcing positive behaviors, ignoring inappropriate behaviors, giving advice, modeling appropriate behaviors, and pointing out the long-range consequences of both positive and negative behaviors.


VIII.    Introduction to Mischel’s Personality System

Like Bandura and Rotter, Mischel believes that cognitive factors, such as expectancies, subjective perceptions, values, goals, and personal standards are important in shaping personality.  In his early theory, Mischel seriously questioned the consistency of personality, but more recently, he and Yuichi Shoda have advanced the notion that behavior is also a function of relatively stable cognitive-affective units.


  1. Biography of Walter Mischel

Walter Mischel was born in Vienna in 1930, the second son of upper-middle-class parents.  When the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938, his family moved to the United States and eventually settled in Brooklyn.  Mischel received an MA from City College of New York and a PhD from Ohio State, where he was influenced by Julian Rotter. He is currently a professor at Columbia University.

  1. Background of the Cognitive-Affective Personality System

Mischel originally believed that human behavior was mostly a function of the situation, but more lately he has recognized the importance of relatively permanent cognitive-affective units.  Nevertheless, Mischel’s theory continues to recognize the apparent inconsistency of some behaviors.

  1. The Consistency Paradox

The consistency paradox refers to the observation that, although both lay people and professionals tend to believe that behavior is quite consistent, research suggests that it is not.  Mischel recognizes that, indeed, some traits are consistent over time, but he contends that there is little evidence to suggest they are consistent from one situation to another.

  1. Person-Situation Interaction

Mischel believes that behavior is best predicted from an understanding of the person, the situation, and the interaction between person and situation.  Thus, behavior is not the result of some global personality trait, but rather of people’s perceptions of themselves in a particular situation.


  1. Cognitive-Affective Personality System

However, Mischel does not believe that inconsistencies in behavior are due solely to the situation; he recognizes that inconsistent behaviors reflect stable patterns of variation within a person.  He and Shoda see these stable variations in behavior in the following framework: If A, then X; but if B, then Y.  People’s pattern of variability is their behavioral signature, or their unique and stable pattern of behaving differently in different situations.

  1. Behavior Prediction

Mischel’s basic theoretical position for predicting and explaining behavior is as follows: If personality is a stable system that processes information about the situation, then as people encounter different situations, they should behave differently as those situations vary.  Therefore, Mischel believes that, even though people’s behavior may reflect some stability over time, it tends to vary as situations vary.

  1. Situation Variables:

Situation variables include all those stimuli that people attend to in a given situation.

  1. Cognitive-Affective Units

Cognitive-affective units include all those psychological, social, and physiological aspects of people that permit them to interact with their environment with some stability in their behavior.  Mischel identified five such units.  First are encoding strategies, or people’s individualized manner of categorizing information they receive from external stimuli.  Second are the competencies and self-regulatory strategies.  One of the most important of these competencies is intelligence, which Mischel argues is responsible for the apparent consistency of other traits.  In addition, people use self-regulatory strategies to control their own behavior through self-formulated goals and self-produced consequences.  The third cognitive-affective units are expectancies and beliefs, or people’s guesses about the consequences of each of the different behavioral possibilities.  The fourth cognitive-affective unit includes people’s subjective goals and values, which tend to render behavior fairly consistent. Mischel’s fifth cognitive-affective unit includes affective responses, including emotions, feelings, and the affect that accompanies physiological reactions.


XII.     Related Research

The theories of both Rotter and Mischel have sparked an abundance of related research, with Rotter’s locus of control being one of the most frequently researched areas in psychology, and Mischel’s notion of delay of gratification, and Mischel and Shoda’s cognitive-affective personality system also receiving wide attention.

  1. Locus of Control, Depression, and Suicide

During the genocide of 6 million Jews by the Nazis during World War II, only one half of one percent of people in Nazi-occupied territory helped Jewish neighbors whose lives were in peril (Oliner & Oliner, 1988), in part because the peril to their own lives equaled the danger to the lives of those they assisted.  Elizabeth Midlarsky and her colleagues wanted to use personality variables to predict who was a Holocaust hero and who was a bystander during World War II (Midlarsky, Fagin Jones, & Corley, 2005).  One of the personality variables they selected was locus of control, along with autonomy, risk taking, social responsibility, authoritarianism, empathy, and altruistic moral reasoning.  They found that internal locus of control was positively related to more autonomy, risk taking, sense of social responsibility, tolerance, empathy, and altruistic moral reasoning, and to less authoritarianism.  Statistical analysis supported the researchers’ hypothesis that personality would predict who was a hero and who was not, being correct 93% of the time.  A higher sense of internal control was associated with heroism in this study.

  1. Person-Situation Interaction

            Mischel and associates have reported hundreds of studies influenced by his cognitive-affective personality system.  These studies—which are based on the statement, “If I am in situation A, then I do X; but If I am in situation B, then I do Y.”   These studies have generally supported Mischel and Shoda’s conception of the conditional nature of human behavior.  One of Mischel’s students, Lara Kammrath, and her colleagues recently conducted an elegant study (2005) illustrating the “If…then…” framework very clearly (Kammrath, Mendoza-Denton, & Mischel, 2005).  This study showed that people understand the if-then framework and use it when judging others; in other words, the average person understands that people behave differently in different situations, and depending on their personality, people adjust their behavior to match the situation.  Mischel and colleagues conducted further studies on the conditional nature of dispositions (Mendoza-Denton, Ayduck, Mischel, Shoda, &Testa, 2001), and found that conditional and interactionist self-evaluations tend to buffer negative reactions to failure.  They concluded that their conceptualization of the person-situation environment as social-cognitive and interactionist is more applicable to understanding human behavior than the traditional, “decontextualized” views of personality, in which people behave in a given way regardless of the context.


XIII.    Critique of Cognitive Social Learning Theory

Cognitive social learning theory combines the rigors of learning theory with the speculative assumption that people are forward-looking beings.  It rates high on generating research, internal consistency; it rates about average on its ability to be falsified, to organize data, and to guide action.


XIV.    Concept of Humanity

Rotter and Mischel see people as goal-directed, cognitive animals whose perceptions of events are more crucial than the events themselves.  Cognitive social learning theory rates very high on social influences, and high on uniqueness of the individual, free choice, teleology, and conscious processes. On the dimension of optimism versus pessimism, Rotter’s view is slightly more optimistic, whereas Mischel’s is about in the middle.

Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory

Overview of Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory

Bandura’s social cognitive theory takes an agentic perspective, meaning that humans have some limited ability to control their lives.  In contrast to Skinner, Bandura (1) recognizes that chance encounters and fortuitous events often shape one’s behavior; (2) places more emphasis on observational learning; (3) stresses the importance of cognitive factors in learning; (4) suggests that human activity is a function of behavior and person variables, as well as the environment; and (5) believes that reinforcement is mediated by cognition.

  1. Biography of Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura was born in Canada in 1925, but he has spent his entire professional life in the United States.  He completed a PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Iowa in 1951 and since then has worked almost entirely at Stanford University, where he continues to be an active researcher and speaker.

III.    Learning

Bandura takes a broad view of learning, believing that people learn through observing others and by attending to the consequences of their own actions.  Although he believes that reinforcement aids learning, he contends that people can learn in the absence of reinforcement and even of a response.

  1. Observational Learning

The heart of observational learning is modeling, which is more than simple imitation, because it involves adding and subtracting from observed behavior. At least three principles influence modeling: (1) people are most likely to model high-status people, (2) people who lack skill or status are most likely to model, and (3) people tend to model behavior that they see as being rewarding to the model.  Bandura recognized four processes that govern observational learning: (1) attention, or noticing what a model does; (2) representation, or symbolically representing new response patterns in memory; (3) behavior production, or producing the behavior that one observes; and (4) motivation; that is, the observer must be motivated to perform the observed behavior.

  1. Enactive Learning

All behavior is followed by some consequence, but whether that consequence reinforces the behavior depends on the person’s cognitive evaluation of the situation.

  1. Triadic Reciprocal Causation

Social cognitive theory holds that human functioning is molded by the reciprocal interaction of (1) behavior; (2) personal factors, including cognition; and (3) environmental events—a model Bandura calls triadic reciprocal causation.

  1. Differential Contributions

Bandura does not suggest that the three factors in the triadic reciprocal causation model make equal contributions to behavior.  The relative influence of behavior, environment, and person depends on which factor is strongest at any particular moment.

  1. Chance Encounters and Fortuitous Events

The lives of many people have been fundamentally changed by a chance meeting with another person or by a fortuitous, unexpected event.  Chance encounters and fortuitous events enter the triadic reciprocal causation paradigm at the environment point, after which they influence behavior in much the same way as do planned events.

  1. Human Agency

Bandura believes that human agency is the essence of humanness; that is, humans are defined by their ability to organize, regulate, and enact behaviors that they believe will produce desirable consequences.

  1. Core Features of Human Agency

Human agency has four core features: (1) intentionality, or a proactive commitment to actions that may bring about desired outcomes: (2) foresight, or the ability to set goals; (3) self-reactiveness, which includes monitoring their progress toward fulfilling their choices; and (4) self-reflectiveness, which allows people can think about and evaluate their motives, values, and life goals.

  1. Self-Efficacy

How people behave in a particular situation depends in part on their self-efficacy, that is, their beliefs that they can or cannot exercise those behaviors necessary to bring about a desired consequence.  Efficacy expectations differ from outcome expectations, which refer to people’s prediction of the likely consequences of their behavior.  Self-efficacy combines with environmental variables, previous behaviors, and other personal variables to predict behavior.  It is acquired, enhanced, or decreased by any one or combination of four sources: (1) mastery experiences or performance, (2) social modeling, or observing someone of equal ability succeed or fail at a task; (3) social persuasion or listening to a trusted person’s encouraging words; and (4) physical and emotional states, such as anxiety or fear, which usually lowers self-efficacy.  High self-efficacy and a responsive environment are the best predictors of successful outcomes.

  1. Proxy Agency

Bandura also recognizes the influence of proxy agency through which people exercise some partial control over everyday living.  Successful living in the 21st century requires people to seek proxies to supply their food, deliver information, provide transportation, etc.  Without the use of proxies, modern people would be forced to spend most of their time securing the necessities of survival.

  1. Collective Efficacy

          Collective efficacy is the level of confidence that people have that their combined efforts will produce social change.  At least four factors can lower collective efficacy.  First, events in other parts of the world can leave people with a sense of helplessness; second, complex technology can decrease people’s perceptions of control over their environment; third, entrenched bureaucracies discourage people from attempting to bring about social change; and fourth, the size and scope of worldwide problems contribute to people’s sense of powerlessness.

 VII.  Self-Regulation

By using reflective thought, humans can manipulate their environments and produce consequences of their actions, giving them some ability to regulate their own behavior.  Bandura believes that behavior stems from a reciprocal influence of external and internal factors.

  1. External Factors in Self-Regulation

Two external factors contribute to self-regulation: (1) standards of evaluation, and (2) external reinforcement.  External factors affect self-regulation by providing people with standards for evaluating their own behavior.

  1. Internal Factors in Self-Regulation

Internal requirements for self-regulation include: (1) self-observation of performance; (2) judging or evaluating performance; (3) and self reaction, including self-reinforcement or self-punishment.

  1. Self-Regulation through Moral Agency

Internalized self-sanctions prevent people from violating their own moral standards either through selective activation or disengagement of internal control.  Selective activation refers to the notion that self-regulatory influences are not automatic but operate only if activated.  It also means that people react differently in different situations, depending on their evaluation of the situation.  Disengagement of internal control means that people are capable of separating themselves from the negative consequences of their behavior.  People in ambiguous moral situations—who are uncertain that their behavior is consistent with their own social and moral standards of conduct—may separate their conduct from its injurious consequences through four general techniques of disengagement of internal standards or selective activation.   The first is redefining behavior, or justifying otherwise reprehensible actions by cognitively restructuring them.  People can use redefinition of behavior to disengage themselves from reprehensible conduct by: (1) justifying otherwise culpable behavior on moral grounds; (2) making advantageous comparisons between their behavior and the even more reprehensible behavior of others; (3) using euphemistic labels to change the moral tone of their behavior.  Second, people can disengage their behavior from its consequences by displacing or diffusing responsibility.  A third set of disengagement procedures involves dehumanizing or blaming the victims.  A fourth method is to distort or obscure the relationship between behavior and its injurious consequences.  People can do this by minimizing, disregarding, or distorting the consequences of their behavior. 

VIII.  Dysfunctional Behavior

Dysfunction behavior is learned through the mutual interaction of the person (including cognitive and neurophysiological processes), the environment (including interpersonal relations), and behavioral factors (especially previous experiences with reinforcement).

  1. Depression

People who develop depressive reactions often (1) underestimate their successes and overestimate their failures, (2) set personal standards too high, or (3) treat themselves badly for their faults.

  1. Phobias

Phobias are learned by (1) direct contact, (2) inappropriate generalization, and (3) observational experiences.  Once learned they are maintained by negative reinforcement, as the person is reinforced for avoiding fear-producing situations.

  1. Aggression

When carried to extreme, aggressive behaviors can become dysfunctional.  In a study of children observing live and filmed models being aggressive, Bandura and his associates found that aggression tends to foster more aggression.

  1. Therapy

The goal of social cognitive therapy is self-regulation.  Bandura noted three levels of treatment: (1) induction of change, (2) generalization of change to other appropriate situations, and (3) maintenance of newly acquired functional behaviors.  Social cognitive therapists sometimes use systematic desensitization, a technique aimed at diminishing phobias through relaxation.

  1. Related Research

Bandura’s concept of self-efficacy has generated a great deal of research demonstrating that people’s beliefs are related to their ability to perform in a wide variety of situations, including coping with the threat of terrorism and managing Type 2 diabetes.

  1. Self-Efficacy and Terrorism

Psychologists have always been interested (even before 9/11/01) in both how people are drawn into terrorist culture, and how innocent people cope with the constant threat of terrorism (Ben-Zur & Zeidner, 1995; Moghaddam & Marsella, 2004; Zeidner, 2007).  After 2001, this interest in terrorism increased exponentially, and some researchers began to consider how self-efficacy might help people cope with terrorism.  People report feeling less personal security following a terrorist attack (Gallup, 2002).  An increased sense of self-efficacy may help to offset this insecurity and negativity.  Peter Fischer and colleagues wanted to investigate relationships among self-efficacy, religion, and coping with the threat of terrorism (Fischer, Greitemeyer, Kastenmuller, Jonas, & Frey, 2006).  They used Allport’s Religious Orientation Scale (ROS; see Chapter 13).  Previous research had found that using prayer as a coping mechanism is related to an increased feeling of internal control over events (Ai, Peterson, Rodgers, & Tice, 2005), so Fischer and colleagues predicted that intrinsically religious people would experience greater self-efficacy.  The results of their study found that the intrinsically religious did report greater feelings of self-efficacy, and better moods due to the increased sense of self-efficacy, but only when the salience of terrorism was high.  When salience of terrorism was low, religiosity caused no difference among test subjects.  The conclusion is that in the face of a threat, self-efficacy is crucial to decreasing the threat’s harmful effects.

  1. Self-Efficacy and Diabetes

Bandura himself has written about the usefulness of his theory for encouraging people to engage in healthy behaviors that can increase overall well-being and longevity (Bandura, 1998).  Recently, William Sacco and colleagues (2007) studied self-efficacy related to diabetes. Since depression is twice as prevalent in diabetics as in the general population (Anderson, Freeland, Clouse, & Lustman, 2001), and a hallmark of depression is lack of motivation, the strict adherence to diet and exercise plans required of Type 2 diabetes management is especially problematic.  Sacco and his colleagues (2007) thus wanted to explore the role of self-efficacy in raising adherence to disease management plans, and in lowering negative physical and mental health symptoms.  The results clearly showed that self-efficacy is important to managing chronic disease:  Higher levels of self-efficacy were related to lower levels of depression, lower BMI, lower incidence and severity of diabetes symptoms, and higher levels of adherence to doctors’ orders.  BMI was positively correlated with depression, and adhering to doctors’ orders was negatively correlated with depression.  Self-efficacy was directly responsible for the relationships of depression to both BMI and adherence.  Of the many parts of social-cognitive theory that have influenced psychological research, these studies on terrorism and diabetes show the far-reaching implications of the construct of self-efficacy.  Bandura’s theory continues to generate an impressive amount of research.

XI     Critique of Bandura

Bandura’s theory receives the highest marks of any in the text largely because it was constructed through a careful balance of innovative speculation and data from rigorous research.  In summary, the theory rates very high on its ability to generate research and on its internal consistency. In addition, it rates high on parsimony and on its ability to be falsified, organize knowledge, and guide the practitioner.

XII.   Concept of Humanity

Bandura sees humans as being relatively fluid and flexible.  People can store past experiences and then use this information to chart future actions.  Bandura’s theory rates near the middle on teleology versus causality and high on free choice, optimism, conscious influences, and uniqueness.  As a social cognitive theory, it rates very high on social determinants of personality.

David Buss’s Evolutionary Theory of Personality

Overview of Evolutionary Theory of Personality

Charles Darwin (1859) laid the foundation for modern theory of evolution, even though the theory itself has been around since the ancient Greeks. Darwin’s major contribution was not the theory of evolution but rather an explanation for how evolution works, namely through selection (natural and sexual) and chance. Chance occurs mostly through random genetic mutation and we won’t have much to say about chance. Instead, we focus on selection of three different kinds: artificial selection, natural selection, and sexual selection. The evolutionary process (natural and sexual selection and chance) results in three distinct outcomes: adaptations, by-products and noise.


  1. Biography of David Buss

David Buss was born April 14, 1953 in Indianapolis Indiana to Arnold H. Buss, Sr. and Edith Nolte. Arnold H. Buss Sr. earned his PhD in Psychology from Indiana University in the early 1950s and was a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and finally the University of Texas, where he is currently Professor Emeritus. Arnold Buss’ research focused on aggression, psychopathology, self-consciousness, and social anxiety.


III.   Principles of Evolutionary Psychology
Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer were the first thinkers to argue for an evolutionary perspective of psychological thought and behavior. The term evolutionary psychology can be defined as the scientific study of human thought and behavior from an evolutionary perspective and focuses on four big questions (Buss, 1999):

  1. Why is the human mind designed the way it is and how did it come to take its current form?
  2. How is the human mind designed, that is, what are its parts and current structure?
  3. What function do the parts of the mind have and what is it designed to do?
  4. How do the evolved mind and current environment interact to shape human behavior?


  1. Evolutionary Theory of Personality

         Most personality theories, as you have seen in Sections I to III, assume that personality is caused by environmental events alone and seldom mention a biological component. Evolutionary theory, however, assumes that the true origins of personality traits reach far back in ancestral times. The true origin of personality is evolution, meaning that it is caused by an interaction between an ever changing environment and a changing body and brain. Evolutionary theory is one of the few recent theories of personality that attempts once again to explain the grand view of human personality—its ultimate origins as well as its overall function and structure.


The field of evolutionary personality psychology itself has been divided by psychologists arguing for two solutions: personality differences were either “noise” or they were perhaps “by-products” of evolved adaptive strategies. More recently, however, other theorists have made the case for personality traits being something more than noise or byproducts, namely adaptations. David Buss was the first and most prominent theorist to take up the cause of developing an evolutionary theory of personality. The essence of Buss’s theory of personality revolves around adaptive problems and their solutions or mechanism, with a foundational understanding of the nature and nurture of personality.


  1. Common Misunderstanding in Evolutionary Theory

         When evolutionary theory first became popular in the 1980s it caused quite a bit of controversy. There was a lot of resistance both from inside and outside university settings against applying evolutionary ideas to human thought and behavior. Evolution is all about the body changing due to changes in the environment. In this sense it is inherently a “nature and nurture” interaction perspective. Evolution occurs from the interaction between adaptations and input from the environment that triggers the adaptations. More generally, the discovery of epigenetics is an even more powerful example of how genetic influence is not set in stone at the moment of conception and interacts with input from the environment. Epigenetics is change in gene function that does not involve changes in DNA.


  1. Related Research

The evolutionary model of personality cannot be tested directly in so far as we cannot conduct studies over hundreds of generations. And yet, just like in biology, there is much support for the evolutionary basis of human personality, which can be divided into at least three general topics: temperament, genetics, and animal personality. All three lines of evidence support the view that personality has a biological basis and that these biological systems have evolved.


VII. Critique of Evolutionary Theory of Personality

Evolutionary psychology in general and evolutionary personality psychology in particular have stimulated a lot of controversy but also a relatively large body of empirical research. The field has its own scientific society (Human Behavior and Evolutionary Society, HBES), and its own scientific journal Evolution and Human Behavior. The discipline also rests upon other scientific disciplines, such as evolutionary biology, ethology, behavioral genetics, and neuroscience, so there is a solid empirical foundation to the field.


VIII. Concept of Humanity

It is difficult to say on which side of the optimism-pessimism debate evolutionary theory would fall. It is mostly descriptive and, in that sense, tends to be somewhat neutral about describing human nature.

Evolutionary psychology has a complex view on the question of determinism versus free-will. A common assumption of evolutionary theory by critics is that it is harshly deterministic in that it explains behavior in terms of an evolved past and genetic influence. Indeed, evolutionary psychology is often criticized for condoning traditional sex-roles (e.g., women are attracted to high status men and men are attracted to physically attractive women). Buss and other evolutionary theorists make clear, however, that evolutionary psychology is a theory of how these traits began, not how they should be. On the question of causality versus teleology it is clear that evolutionary theory comes down heavily on the causality side of the equation. Evolutionary theory sides more with the unconscious influences on thought, behavior, and personality than on conscious ones. The concept of humanity that will be most surprising to many people will be evolutionary psychology’s stance on biological versus social influence. Clearly there is a strong emphasis on biological influences, from brain systems, neurochemicals, and genetics. Evolutionary theory is also balanced on the question of the uniqueness of the individual compared to general commonality among all people.


Rollo May’s Existential Psychology

Overview of May’s Existential Theory

Existential psychology began in Europe shortly after World War II and spread to the United States, where Rollo May played a large part in popularizing it.  A clinical psychologist by training, May took the view that modern people frequently run away both from making choices and from assuming responsibility.


  1. Biography of Rollo May

Rollo May was born in Ohio in 1909, but grew up in Michigan.  After graduating from Oberlin College in 1930, he spent 3 years as an itinerant artist roaming throughout eastern and southern Europe.  When he returned to the United States, he entered the Union Theological Seminary, from which he received a Master of Divinity degree.  He then served for 2 years as a pastor, but quit in order to pursue a career in psychology.  He received a PhD in clinical psychology from Columbia in 1949 at the relatively advanced age of 40.  During his professional career, he served as lecturer or visiting professor at a number of universities, conducted a private practice as a psychotherapist, and wrote a number of popular books on the human condition.  May died in 1994 at age 85.


III.       Background of Existentialism

Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher and theologian, is usually considered to be the founder of modern existentialism.  Like later existentialists, he emphasized a balance between freedom and responsibility.  People acquire freedom of action by expanding their self-awareness and by assuming responsibility for their actions.  However, this acquisition of freedom and responsibility is achieved at the expense of anxiety and dread.

  1. What Is Existentialism?

The first tenet of existentialism is that existence takes precedence over essence, meaning that process and growth are more important than product and stagnation.  Second, existentialists oppose the artificial split between subject and object.  Third, they stress people’s search for meaning in their lives.  Fourth, they insist that each of us is responsible for who we are and what we will become.  Fifth, most existentialists take an antitheoretical position, believing that theories tend to objectify people.

  1. Basic Concepts

According to existentialists, a basic unity exists between people and their environments, a unity expressed by the term Dasein, or being-in-the-world. Three simultaneous modes of the world characterize us in our Dasein:  Umwelt, or the environment around us;  Mitwelt, or our world with other people; and Eigenwelt, or our relationship with our self. People are both aware of themselves as living beings and also aware of the possibility of nonbeing or nothingness.  Death is the most obvious form of nonbeing, which can also be experienced as retreat from life’s experiences.


  1. The Case of Philip

Rollo May helped illustrate his concepts of existential theory and therapy by the case of Philip, a successful architect in his mid-50s.  Despite his apparent success, Philip experienced severe anxiety when his relationship with Nicole (a writer in her mid-40s) took a puzzling turn.  Uncertain of his future and suffering from low self-esteem, Philip went into therapy with Rollo May.  Eventually, Philip was able to understand that his difficulties with women were related to his early experiences with a mother who was unpredictable and an older sister who suffered from severe mental disorders.  However, he began to recover only after he accepted that his “need” to take care of unpredictable Nicole was merely part of his personal history with unstable women.


  1. Anxiety

People experience anxiety when they become aware that their existence or something identified with it might be destroyed.  The acquisition of freedom inevitably leads to anxiety, which can be either pleasurable and constructive or painful and destructive.

  1. Normal Anxiety

Growth produces normal anxiety, defined as that which is proportionate to the threat, does not involve repression, and can be handled on a conscious level.

  1. Neurotic Anxiety

Neurotic anxiety is a reaction that is disproportionate to the threat and that leads to repression and defensive behaviors.  It is felt whenever one’s values are transformed into dogma.  Neurotic anxiety blocks growth and productive action.


  1. Guilt

Guilt arises whenever people deny their potentialities, fail to accurately perceive the needs of others, or remain blind to their dependence on the natural world.  Both anxiety and guilt are ontological; that is, they refer to the nature of being and not to feelings arising from specific situations.


VII.     Intentionality

The structure that gives meaning to experience and allows people to make decisions about the future is called intentionality.  May believed that intentionality permits people to overcome the dichotomy between subject and object because it enables them to see that their intentions are a function of both themselves and their environment.


VIII.    Care, Love, and Will

Care is an active process that suggests that things matter.  Love means to care, to delight in the presence of another person, and to affirm that person’s value as much as one’s own.  Care is also an important ingredient in will, defined as a conscious commitment to action.

  1. Union of Love and Will

May believe that our modern society has lost sight of the true nature of love and will, equating love with sex and will with will power. He further held that psychologically healthy people are able to combine love and will because both imply care, choice, action, and responsibility.

  1. Forms of Love

May identified four kinds of love in Western tradition—sex, eros, philia, and agape. He believed that Americans no longer view sex as a natural biological function, but have become preoccupied with it to the point of trivialization.   Eros is a psychological desire that seeks an enduring union with a loved one.  It may include sex, but it is built on care and tenderness.  Philia, an intimate nonsexual friendship between two people, takes time to develop and does not depend on the actions of the other person.  Agape is an altruistic or spiritual love that carries with it the risk of playing God.  Agape is undeserved and unconditional.


IX        Freedom and Destiny

Psychologically healthy individuals are comfortable with freedom, able to assume responsibility for their choices, and willing to face their destiny.

  1. Freedom Defined

Freedom comes from an understanding of our destiny.  We are free when we recognize that death is a possibility at any moment and when we are willing to experience changes even in the face of not knowing what those changes will bring.

  1. Forms of Freedom

May recognized two forms of freedom: (1) freedom of doing or freedom of action, which he called existential freedom, and (2) freedom of being or an inner freedom, which he called essential freedom.

  1. Destiny Defined

May defined destiny as “the design of the universe speaking through the design of each one of us.”  In other words, our destiny includes the limitations of our environment and our personal qualities, including our mortality, gender, and genetic predispositions.  Freedom and destiny constitute a paradox because freedom gains vitality from destiny, and destiny gains significance from freedom.

  1. Philip’s Destiny

After some time in therapy, Philip was able to stop blaming his mother for not doing what he thought she should have done.  The objective facts of his childhood had not changed, but Philip’s subjective perceptions had.  As he came to terms with his destiny, Philip began to be able to express his anger, to feel less trapped in his relationship with Nicole, and to become more aware of his possibilities.  In other words, he gained his freedom of being.


  1. The Power of Myth

According to May, the people of contemporary Western civilization have an urgent need for myths.  Because they have lost many of their traditional myths, they turn to religious cults, drugs, and popular culture to fill the vacuum.  The Oedipus myth has had a powerful effect on our culture because it deals with such common existential crises as birth, separation from parents, sexual union with one parent and hostility toward the other, independence in one’s search for identity, and finally death.


  1. Psychopathology

May saw apathy and emptiness—not anxiety or depression—as the chief existential disorders of our time.  People have become alienated from the natural world (Umwelt), from other people (Mitwelt) and from themselves (Eigenwelt).  Psychopathology is a lack of connectedness and an inability to fulfill one’s destiny.


XII.     Psychotherapy

The goal of May’s psychotherapy was not to cure patients of any specific disorder, but rather to make them more fully human.  May said that the purpose of psychotherapy is to set people free, that is, to allow them to make choices and to assume responsibility for those choices.


XIII.    Related Research

May’s theory of personality does not easily lend itself to direct empirical research.  Nevertheless, some researchers have investigated the concept of terror management, which is based on more readily testable hypotheses.  Rollo May’s existential theory has not generated much objective, scientific research, a situation that May would have approved.  Nevertheless, one existential topic to receive some empirical attention has been existential anxiety and terror management.  Ernest Becker, an American psychiatrist inspired by Kierkegaard and Otto Rank, has presented research that has been a major source of inspiration for terror management theorists.

  1. Mortality Salience and Denial of Our Animal Nature

Also, Jamie Goldenberg and colleagues found that cultural worldviews (religion, politics, and social norms) and self-esteem function to defend people against thoughts of death, so that when death becomes salient through disasters, death of a loved one, or images of death, people respond by clinging more closely to cultural worldviews and bolstering their self-esteem. They predicted that mortality salience would increase feelings of disgust, and their experiment found this prediction to be true.  Goldenberg and colleagues found that their results supported the basic terror management assumption that people distance themselves from animals because animals remind us of our own physical mortality.  Cathy Cox and colleagues recently extended Goldenberg’s findings by investigating disgust reactions to breast feeding (Cox, Greenberg, Arndt, & Pyszczynski, 2007; Cox, Goldenberg, Pyszczynski, & Weise, 2007).  Their findings supported the conclusions of a growing body of research that when mortality is made more salient, people are increasingly disgusted by human features that remind us of our animal nature.  This body of work points to the general conclusion that disgust serves the function of defending us against the existential threat posed by our inevitable death.

  1. Fitness as a Defense against Mortality Awareness

If thoughts of death are highly anxiety provoking, then people should protect themselves against thoughts of death (terror-management) by doing things that can decrease their likelihood of dying, such as exercising and performing other healthy behaviors.  Jamie Arndt and colleagues investigated this issue and found support for the hypothesis that, for people who value health and fitness, thoughts of death are related to greater interest in health-related behaviors.  They also confirmed the importance of distinguishing between proximal or conscious and distal or unconscious defenses against death.  In summary, terror management seems to be a powerful force behind much of human behavior.


XIV. Critique of May

May’s psychology has been legitimately criticized as being antitheoretical and unjustly criticized as being anti-intellectual.  May’s antitheoretical approach calls for a new kind of science—one that considers uniqueness and personal freedom as crucial concepts.  However, according to the criteria of present science, May’s theory rates low on most standards.  More specifically, we give it a very low rating on its ability to generate research, to be falsified, and to guide action; low on internal consistency (because it lacks operationally defined terms), average on parsimony, and high on its organizational powers, due to its consideration of a broad scope of the human condition.


  1. Concept of Humanity

May viewed people as complex beings, capable of both tremendous good and immense evil.  People have become alienated from the world, from other people, and, most of all, from themselves.  On the dimensions of a concept of humanity, May rates high on free choice, teleology, social influences, and uniqueness.  On the issue of conscious or unconscious forces, his theory takes a middle position.