Guidance and Counseling: Philosophical, Psychological and Sociological Foundations
Philosophical, Psychological and Sociological Foundations
The theory and practice of counseling has drawn insights from other disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, sociology, and the other social sciences. These disciplines have provided both data and comprehensive hypotheses that counselors have used to clarify the theoretical structures underlying the whole counseling process.
Generally, there are three foundations to counseling theory:
- Philosophical Foundations
- Sociological Foundations
- Psychological Foundations
- In a healthy personality the individual has a realistic perception of himself he knows what he wants and how much he wants it.
- A goal of counseling is to help individuals to reach their maximum potential, which can occur only when they develop consistent philosophical outlooks.
- Psychologists have often argued that philosophy has no place in the scientific study of human behavior. However, May (1967) points out that every scientific method rests on philosophical presuppositions.
Different Philosophical Positions
One theme is found consistently in the literature discussing the philosophy of counseling belief in the dignity and worth of the individual, in the recognition of the individuals freedom in determining his own values and goals, and in the clients right to pursue his own life-style
- A number of beliefs have emerged from Western civilization philosophies. These beliefs center on the concept of individualism. Its first aspect is the importance accorded the individual.
- Thus, in Western culture a counselor is encouraged to help the client to become more independent, more autonomous.
Belief in the dignity and worth of the Individual:
Arbuckles (1975) Philosophical Model about a responsible and free individual
A responsible and free individual is one who has narrowed the gap between attitudes and behaviors the literal meaning of freedom and responsibility changes as the culture changes and a responsible individual is one who has no need to impose himself or his ideas on others.
Blochers grouping of relevant philosophical systems
Blocher (1966) has proposed grouping contemporary philosophical systems into three major categories
- Essentialistic philosophies assume that humans are the only creatures endowed with reason and that their chief function is to use this reason in order to know the world in which they live. It therefore follows that truth is universal and absolute, and the individuals destiny is to discover truth by distinguishing between the essential and the accidental. It refers to a belief in the existence of fixed, unchanging absolutes of the good, the true, and the beautiful.
- Arbuckle (1975) points out that belief in absolute values can pose some difficulties for counselors. He asks whether the counselor who is firmly committed to absolutistic concepts of right and wrong, truth and error, beauty and ugliness, can allow a client the freedom to develop values in the clients own unique way.
- Such systems begin not with the assumptions of universal truths but with specific and particular experiences. The question What is true? is less important than What will work?
- A fact is valued for its usefulness, not its universality. As a result, values have no existence in themselves. Values are individual to the observer, and truth is dynamic in a world that is always changing. Certainly such a view describes the philosophy that underlies behaviorism. The behavioral approach is primarily pragmatic.
- Existentialism is concerned with human longing and with seeking for importance within the individuals self. The existential philosophies emphasize the view of reality most meaningful to individuals. In a sense, it represents an approach that is empathic response by the counselor, as the counselor attempts to reconstruct the personal meaning structure of the client.
- To analyze human behavior in philosophical terms is to ask serious questions about what a person values, whether he or she should value it, whether this value fits in with a pattern of values, whether the values of something hampers or assists other important values. Philosophical questions are directly involved when an individual faces a problem whether personal, vocational, or interpersonal.
- Sociology is basically a study of social group behavior. A basic premise of sociology is that peoples behavior is largely determined by their social interactions, their relationships as individuals and as group members. Following is the description of these influences Influence of social organizations on Individuals
- Sociologists have examined what impact the social structure has on the individual and how the individual adapts to these social controls. Merton (1957) suggests that individuals can cope through five general means conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, or rebellion.
- It focuses on understanding social rules & process that connect & separate people not only as individuals, but as members of associations, groups, and institutions. It helps counselors understand human groups and their influence on human behavior.
Development of social/cultural values
Effective counselors should be able to understand how an individuals culture influences his value structure and how conflicts between individual and cultural values influence development. Values and gender roles have changed in modern day society. At fault is what sociologists call a cultural lag that is, habits and beliefs from previous times conflict with the cultural patterns brought about by new technology.
This process transmits values and purposes of the group to the individual, teaching the individual how to fit into the pattern of that social organization. Socialization does not typically deal with the uniqueness of individuals rather, it focuses on those aspects of an individuals development that concern the adaptations and adjustments to the culture or society. In effect, the socialization processes work primarily to further the goals of the group rather than to further the development of the individual. Because the counselors primary commitment is to individual growth and development rather than to the facilitation of group ends, the counselor is particularly concerned with those socialization processes that help the individual develop identity, self-awareness, values, and goals.
- Behavior is a product of the perceptual field of the individual at the moment of action.
- Contemporary social psychology greatly concerned with perceptual processes in human beings. For example, when an individual views a situation as threatening, he or she acts as if that situation were indeed threatening.
- The counselor must understand the nature of the individuals perceptual experiences. Therefore, the person will behave defensively or aggressively, depending on what he sees as the best reaction to the perceived threat.
Psychological Foundations Learning Principles
- The behavioral theories tend to emphasize the idea that learning is essentially a mechanical matter.
- Field theories emphasize on perception eventually forced the behaviorists to stop speaking as if the stimuli were purely objective and therefore equivalent for everyone.
- Cognitive theorists conceptualize learning as an active restructuring of perceptions and concepts, not as passive responses to stimuli.