Psychotherapy and Counseling

Counseling, in this sense, is also closely related to psychotherapy. Psychotherapy may be considered the more generally inclusive in terms of personality reorganization; marriage counseling, the more specific procedure in its focus on the interpersonal relations between men and women concerned in the marriage. We shall approach the more specialized interest of this chapter -marriage counseling -- through a brief discussion of the more general aspects of psychotherapy and counseling.

There are as many conceptions and definitions of psychotherapy as there are schools -- one might almost say, individual psychotherapists. A recent and "comprehensive" definition of psychotherapy has it as "a form of treatment for problems of an emotional nature in which a trained person deliberately establishes a professional relationship with a patient with the object of removing, modifying, or retarding existing symptoms, of mediating disturbed patterns of behavior, and of promoting positive personality growth and development." According to Wolberg, there are three major types of psychotherapy: supportive psychotherapy, insight therapy with re-educative goals, insight therapy with reconstructive goals.

Regardless of what one may think of the suitability and applicability of the varying methods and techniques of therapists from different schools of thought to their goals and objectives, several things become clear. First, that the different types of psychotherapy are not necessarily mutually exclusive as to either goals or methods; second, that whereas the goals and objectives are relatively few, the theoretical framework, the methods, techniques, and procedures are many and in some instances substantially different from each other; and third, that in a field where there are such wide divergencies of practice there is room for, and in fact bound to develop, a wide variety of schools of thought aiming at the crystallization and formulation of philosophies. These schools of thought will furnish a so-called theoretical basis for practice and will confer upon the practitioner the sanction of authoritativeness because of belonging or adhering to the particular school or system.

Some thoughtful therapists are both puzzled and challenged by the divergent or diametrically different schools and theories of human behavior and motivation underlying psychotherapy, especially when all the schools claim success in treating maladjustment. They can only conclude that none of the schools has the whole truth and that the dynamic elements responsible for the success claimed by all the schools may be the features common to all of them. Hence they proceed to select out what appear to them to be those elements which are common to all psychotherapeutic situations. In spite of criticism, eclecticism is not without merit or justification.

Two of these elements seem to be of special importance to marriage counseling and deserve discussion at this point. They are the "relationship" between the counselor and counselee, and the counselor's concept of "personality."