Up until about 50 or 60 years ago it was very unusual to live more than a few feet – let alone miles – from closest family and friends. People usually ended up living their entire lives in close familiar groups, turning to an elder in the family or close community for advice and counsel during periods of personal difficulty.
Now we’re lucky if we live in the same country – let alone city – as our nearest and dearest. The post war, post technological revolution of the last century has given rise to the mobile society – people seeking a living across the globe, rather than just across the country.
The rise and rise of nuclear families, expanding urban cultures and, in many cases, increasing isolation, might account for the growing use of counseling or psychotherapeutic support during periods of intense emotional pain in our lives.
Where once we may have turned to the church or a village elder for support, we now seek help from the map readers of the maze of existence we call ‘modern life’. Talking therapies have replaced the tribal hearth. A new language has developed in the last century; a language that depicts the twists and turns of an individual psyche as it journeys from birth to death and endeavors to explain the many experiences and levels of consciousness. As well as learning to cope with changing circumstances or catalyzing turning points in our lives, another underlying motivation for therapy is the quest for meaning in our lives, while facing and coming to terms with our own mortality and limited ‘tenure of being’.
Counseling is often more short term than therapy and will be focused on one area, for example bereavement or careers. Counseling provides a space for the client to be heard, otherwise often lacking in today’s world. Counseling aims to assist the client in releasing pain, dealing with difficulties associated with life stresses, coming to know themselves better and to be more self loving and so more outwardly loving.
What is humanistic counseling?
The humanistic approach to counseling, developed in the years just before the Second World War, had become a widely recognized therapeutic approach by the ‘50s and ‘60s. Carl Rogers, one of the ‘fathers’ of humanistic counseling, was very familiar and experienced with the development of Analytical Therapy.
In humanistic counseling, great emphasis is placed on getting more and more in touch with, and honest about, one’s feeling. The counselor needs to be working on his/herself as well as working with the client; in doing so, utilizing his/her own unique collage of skills, techniques, feelings and knowledge to empower the client to make the sometimes difficult and scary journey within. The humanistic counselor listens, reflects, mirrors, empathizes, respects and nurtures, and by establishing a safe, caring environment, the client may be encouraged to explore, unravel, discover, have hope and dig deeper within to find those inner resources that will lead to understanding, resolution and transformation.
It empowers the client because the humanistic counselor communicates genuine care and respect, and empathy and a non-judgmental attitude create an environment in which the client can feel safe and understood. Carl Rogers refined his approach and view of a more humanistic psychology, observing his own evolution by stating, ‘in my early professional years I was asking the question, How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?’
The importance of the family in our development as whole and healthy individuals is recognized as a basic truth by family counselors/therapists as well as analytical psychotherapists. That is not to say that strong blooms only blossom from a loving and nurturing early environment. It is possible that some individuals are so strong and evolved as to survive the worst possible starts in life. In most cases, however, a disturbed and distressed client will have some difficult, challenging relationships within his/her family and these will need to be explored and addressed if the client is to discover and create relief and resolution of their problem.
Transpersonal psychotherapy takes a holistic approach and represents a reintegration of mainstream psychological theory with spiritual enquiry and research into the mind body relationship. It incorporates many principles of accepted psychological streams but aims to provide a more spiritual perspective. The client is encouraged to develop trust in their instinct and intuitive powers, and in their power to self heal.
Transpersonal psychotherapy Is particularly good for those searching for an ongoing process of self awareness, and who may feel that the structure of a typical Freudian psychotherapy session, for example, is too rigid. Meditation is commonly used by transpersonal psychotherapists to clear and create ‘sacred space’ in the all important therapeutic relationship. Clients who are struggling with the integration or spiritual and material values usually benefit from this branch of psychotherapy.