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Recognizing Behavioral Patterns Part II

Jacqueline Williamson graduated with a BBA in Personnel Admin., an MPA in HR Management and an MS in Education.


This article discusses my analytical observation regarding the Person Centered Theory, the Behavioral Theory and the Reality Theory in relation to concepts I have studied as a graduate student at the University of Memphis and through personal observation. A lot of thought has been given to determine what has worked for friends in the past, as well as, what others have learned; and what continues to work at present.

The reference to theories used in this article is Theories and Strategies in Counseling and Psychotherapy (Third Edition), by Burl E. Gilliland, Richard K. James, both University of Memphis professors, and James T. Bowman, Mississippi State University professor.

It's important to look for warning signs especially when the behavior has changed significantly.

It's important to look for warning signs especially when the behavior has changed significantly.

The Person Centered Theory

The Person Centered Theory has the assumption that there are necessary and sufficient conditions that promote positive growth in clients; genuineness, unconditional positive regard, and empathic understanding (Gilliland 1994). This technique is not problem centered, goal centered, or behavior centered but client’s experiencing of feelings is focused.

As an educator, I also ascribe to this concept as working in conjunction with any personal theory concept. Centering on your growth, I believe, is the foundation necessary when discovering the underlying problems that you are facing.

One of the major concepts of this theory is the actualizing tendency. This is the inherent tendency to develop in ways that serve to maintain or promote growth (Gilliland, 1994). When you focus on yourself and what is necessary to insure your growth; you begin to discover things about yourself that are separate from your desire to please others (i.e., husbands/wives, children, significant others). You discover that you are an individual with needs that have to be met. This realization can not only help you but others as well. When you can understand yourself, I believe, you can begin to understand others.

Another major concept of the Person Centered Theory approach is the condition of worth. Worth is conditional when self esteem is based on significant others’ valuation of experiences (Gilliland 1994). You will find that when trying to validate yourself through the approval of others; you live an unhappy and confused existence. As you try to validate yourself solely through the wants and needs of spouses/significant others; you may become vindictive, bitter and ugly.

I believe that if your spouse is unsure of his/her role as parent, companion, and/or breadwinner/homemaker; then s/he will project these insecurities to you. Then, when you attempt to assert your own distinctively different personality, I further attest that s/he will feel threatened and react toward you in a negative manner. If not careful, you might allow this negative mannerism to simultaneously trigger your own insecurities and a vicious circle results.

A third major concept in the Person Centered Theory is empathetic understanding. Empathic understanding knows at a cognitive and deeper affective level how it feels to be another person while retaining one’s own autonomy (Gilliland 1994). This is a necessary trait in effective counseling. The ability of a counselor to understand a client’s degree of hurt; but still be able to look objectively at the situation will help the client in identifying any undesirable behavior s/he may possess.

It is difficult to fathom the feeling of inadequacy in another person unless you are able to disseminate those feelings yourself. Being able to disseminate those feelings and maintaining your own autonomy may not always be easy, however, I personally feel that it is necessary in order to assist the individual and not “lose yourself”.

Positive regard is another major concept in the Person Centered approach. Positive regard is the perception of the self experience of another person that leads to feelings of warmth, liking, and respect of self. (Gilliland 1994). I believe that when you can embrace positive feelings toward yourself; it will be easier for you to have positive regard for others.

I would argue that first you will need to feel that you have a valuable contribution to make to society, not just to your family. Then, you can relate these feelings to others. That shows how we all have something positive to contribute to society. This, I believe will lead to unconditional positive regard. Unconditional positive regard is the perception of another person’s self experiences without ascription of greater or lesser worthiness to that person (Gilliland 1994).

I believe that you can slowly working toward an acceptable level of self actualization. I believe that the ability to accept a person as being a unique individual regardless of his self experiences can be difficult to achieve without first having the ability to accept one’s self as being a unique individual regardless of personal experiences.

Unconditional self regard must be achieved before there can exist unconditional positive regard. I share many conceptual ideas with both the Gestalt Theory and the Person Centered Theory. I believe this is mainly because individually can constantly discover new and wonderful things about themselves.

Some people are master-minds at cloaking their true feelings in public!

Some people are master-minds at cloaking their true feelings in public!

The Behavioral Theory

I consider the Behavioral Theory to be a useful short range tool when you need immediate results in handling an undesirable behavior. However, I do not agree with the concept that dualism (mind-body, body-spirit, and body-soul) have no scientific validity in development, prediction, and control of human behavior (Gilliland 1994).

I don’t agree that environment and internally generated stimuli play dominant roles in personality development (Gilliland 1994). While it is no doubt that the environment and internally generated stimuli play a significant role, I believe that personal perceptions of one’s self within the environment have a greater impact on life choices as well.

I believe that people who see themselves as being victimized by their environment will react in a defeated or negative manner. I feel that we have some control in where we live, who our friends are, and what we do for a living. Again, I feel that how we react to events in our environment is do largely to what we feel our position is in that environment.

I believe that we can choose to continue to be obese, or we can choose to go on a diet. If our home is destroyed by an earthquake, we can choose to seek shelter, ask for assistance in reconstructing our dwellings, or we can sit helpless by, wringing our hands in despair. The choice is ultimately ours.

I believe the Behavioral Theory can aid us in solving an immediate problem by changing our behavior. We can also use the Behavioral Theory as a means of modifying our reactions to undesirable behavior displayed by others. I agree that changing our behavior can achieve desirable results. I also believe that being systematically in touch with what we consider important to us in life can also generate healthy feeling of adequacy.

Maybe I do need to take a closer look at the "man in the mirror!"

Maybe I do need to take a closer look at the "man in the mirror!"

The Reality Theory

The individual viewed, in the Reality Theory, as always behaving to achieve control by fulfilling perceived needs. The individual is always responsible for the choices made (Gilliland 1994.)

It is understandable, non-technical, based on common sense, results - and - success - oriented, problem centered and efficient in terms of time, resources, and effort (Gilliland 1994). I can integrate the concepts of this theory into my personal theory. I have stated throughout this article my belief that people ultimately have control of their outcomes in life.

To avoid redundancy, I have just listed other concepts in the Reality Theory that are in conjunction with my beliefs. These concepts include:

1. People are ultimately self determining.

2. Internal and external psychosocial pressures may relate, directly to present emotional functioning of the client, but in the long run, clients are autonomous, responsible beings.

3. People have stored in their brain a perception of what they want to satisfy basic needs.

4. They behave to gain an input that is close enough to that perception to satisfy their needs. (Gilliland 1994).

I believe that people are self serving beings. Whether for financial gain, economic or political status, or for personal gratification, we all strive for some form of personal autonomy. I believe that the Control Theory, which is included in the chapter on the Reality Theory, is applicable to the vast majority of people.

All behavior is an attempt to control perception (Gilliland 1994). If you want to be recognized as being an intelligent individual, you will read a variety of academic journals, matriculate at a prestigious university, and associate with people of renowned academic achievements. These acts would be used to control the perceptions of others. Some people may not venture to such extreme lengths to control the opinions of others, but I believe that it is done every day.

I believe that the basic concepts of the Reality Theory mirror my concepts on human behavior. We see ourselves in relationship to others. If you are a woman; you will be identified as being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, student, or an employee.

The concept of responsibility is the fulfillment of one’s needs, and to do so in a way that does not deprive others of the ability to fulfill their needs (Gilliland 1994). I believe this concept is basic to all rational modes of thought, not just indicative of the Reality Theory. Our liberty is based on the premise of responsibility.

What mask do you wear for the public?

What mask do you wear for the public?

Concluding Comments

In a review of psychotherapy studies, psychologists Michael Lambert and Allen Bergin write:

“There is now little doubt that psychological treatments are, overall and in general, beneficial, although it remains equally true that not everyone benefits to a satisfactory degree.”

Investigators have repeatedly shown that clients with diverse problems who receive a broad range of therapies improve more than they would with no treatment, with “placebo” treatment or through spontaneous recovery, and that the gains are lasting.[i]

Today, researchers have begun to amass a body of studies on therapy’s effectiveness, to explore ways to standardize techniques and to develop increasingly sophisticated tools for analyzing the therapeutic process.[ii] I have found that after carefully examining the vast amount of information available on psychotherapy, I could not narrow my selection on just one method. Some of the methods, I believe, do seem to overlap in concept and application.

Both Person - Centered Counseling and Gestalt Therapy are Humanistic, Experiential, and Existential in general approach. Behavioral Counseling and Reality Therapy are Cognitive, Behavioral, and Action - Oriented in general approach. An individual could incorporate a blending of both distinctively different schools to create their own uniquely personal theory.

I believe it is important to focus in the present. I also believe that some problems require immediate attention, while other problems are more complex and require a lot of investigation into the though patterns of the individual. There are problems that have their origins in early childhood, and can only be examined when the events of the past are resurrected into the present. Once, however, this “unfinished business” in completed, the focus should revert to present conditions and how the client “feels now”!

What will work best for any counselor, I believe, is based on two important things.

1. What technique will work best for the client?

2. What technique is the counselor most comfortable using?

[i]Goode, Erica E. and Wagner, Betsy, Does Psychotherapy Work?”

U. S. News and World Report, Inc., 05-24-1993, pp. 56-65.

[ii]Goode, Erica E. and Wagner, Betsy, Does Psychotherapy Work?”

U. S. News and World Report, Inc., 05-24-1993, pp. 56-65.

Face to Face

© 2014 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS


Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS (author) from Memphis on February 24, 2014:

No one Counseling Theory may be applicable to every individual instance. Sometimes a combination of techniques can be incorporated to achieve satisfactory results.

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