Counseling Psychology definition

May 7, 2015

Of Counseling Psychology

"Counselling Psychology" is the applied branch of psychology that facilitates lifelong personal and interpersonal functioning, focusing on emotional, social, vocational, educational, developmental issues and concerns related to health. Its central focus is on ordinary and normal developmental issues but also in dysfunctional and unusual problems related to the individual, the family, the group or the organizational human experience. It helps people with physical, emotional and mental disorders to improve their quality of life, to eliminate discomfort and/or disorder, to resolve the crises they face and thus increase their ability to live a functional life. It is considered a branch in psychology that promotes the setting of personal goals and offers positive models according to which one can enhance its strengths and get for him/herself the opportunity for optimal functioning and quality of life.

Counselling Psychology emphasizes the importance of social life for the individual and focuses in his/her ability to adapt to the environment. Without being solely concerned with how a person adapts to social requirements and rules, Counselling Psychology focuses also on the responsibility of society to make those necessary changes that will strengthen the individual. The interaction between the individual and society is central to the philosophy of Counselling Psychology and has led to the development of at least three areas which are currently shared by other specialties:

  1. The emphasis on social context, as opposed to the person itself for being the responsible for mental disorder or dysfunction, has fueled the growth and development of multicultural research and literature (Pederson, Lonner, & Draguns, 2002; Sue & Sue, 2012).
  2. The emphasis on social problems has led to the identification and shifting of attention to intra-group differences including gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, sexual abuse, aids, etc. The Division of Counselling Psychology of the American Psychological Society was the first to publish the criteria for the acquisition of multicultural competence of counselling psychologists.
  3. The developmental and organizational capacity of Counselling Psychology for interventions, has led to the study of supervision as a separate skill, similar but different from the teaching of psychotherapeutic skills. The literature in this area comes mainly from writings of counselling psychologists (Ivey, 1968; Kagan & Krathwohl, 1967; Stoltenberg, 1981; Bernard & Goodyear, 1998).

The unique combination and synthesis of these elements along with the range of application of the intervention techniques used at individual, family, team and organizational level, makes Counselling Psychology a unique approach as a special branch of applied psychology.

Counselling Psychology aims to help people understand and reconcile with intrapsychic events. Consequently, counselling interventions focus on the acquisition of awareness, the development of self- knowledge and the formation of a harmonious relationship with the self, through the recognition and expression of feelings, needs and motives. Nevertheless, at the same time, it focuses on the social context of the individual. The social, peer, personal, family and work relationships are at the heart of Counselling Psychology and are analyzed in order to help individuals establish harmonious relationships with people around them (Woolfe & Dryden, 1996; Woolfe, Strawbridge, Douglas, & Dryden, 2010).

Counselling psychologists are trained according to the scientist-practitioner model, in order to be skilled both in their psychotherapeutic and research task, and also to be able to combine the psychological theory and research with therapeutic practice.

Their tasks include: evaluation (assessment of psychological needs and risks of an individual, results of psychometric tests), formulation of the onset and maintenance of psychological problems, planning and implementation of treatment, report writing and record keeping, evaluation of outcome treatment, training and supervision, research.

Counselling Psychology deals with issues related to the promotion of human welfare, fulfilling relationships, conflict resolution, issues of rehabilitation, sexual, existential and spiritual problems, issues of vocational development and many more, All these are addressed through programs of primary prevention, programs for education and awareness- raising, and programs of early intervention and therapeutic treatment.

It combines theory with research and application in order to understand and promote the welfare of people and increase their ability to live a successful life. The principal roles of the specialty, through which all the above are addressed, include prevention, development and therapy.


The preventive role of Counselling Psychology applies through the so-called psychoeducational programs, designed to prevent the growth or development of problems. These programs help people to make changes in themselves and their environment so as to minimize the potential for the formation of psychological problems.

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