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An Outline of the Historical Development of Counseling and Therapy

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The Psychoanalytic School of Thought

The father of psychoanalysis was Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), who was firstly a neurologist interested in finding an effective treatment for patients with neurotic or hysterical symptoms. Freud's first theory to explain hysterical symptoms was the so-called seduction theory. Patients under treatment with this new method remembered incidences of being sexually seduced in childhood, and Freud believed they had actually been abused only to later repress their memories. This, however, proved to be unworkable as it did not apply to all cases.

Later, Freud discovered that dreams have symbolic significance and are specific to the dream void then formulated his second psychological theory that of there being an unconscious primary process consisting of symbolic and condensed thoughts on the secondary process of logical conscious thoughts this was published in his book “The interpretation of dreams” in 1900. In this work Freud discovered that dreams were symbolic and specific to the dreamer of dreams, he referred to them as the Royal road to the unconscious. Meaning that analysis of the dreams could help uncover the content of the clients unconscious mind and give clues to unconscious conflicts.

In 1923 Freud published his structural theory of the id ego and superego. Or translated from the German “the it” “The I” and the “over I/upper I” "das Es," "das Ich," and "das Über-Ich".

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

The Id

The “id” comprises the unorganised part of the personality structure that contains the basic drives. The id acts as a pleasure principle, it’s not compelled by reality, it seeks immediate enjoyment it is focused on selfishness and instant self gratification. It stands in direct opposition to the superego, the mind of a newborn child is regarded as completely “id-ridden”. There was a great 1950’s film “The forbidden Planet” where a Doctor hooks his mind up to Alien technology to control the running of the space station, a by product of the procedure was that the machine took the content of his id and transformed it in to an energy monster that coveted his daughter and killed any of the space cadets that expressed an interest in her; a literal projection of the Id’s energies.

The Ego

The ego acts according to the reality principle in other words it seeks to please the ids drive in a realistic way that will benefit in the long term rather than bringing grief.

The ego comprises that organised part of the personality structure which includes defence perceptual intellectual cognitive and executive functions, conscious awareness resides in the ego. Although not all of the operations of the ego or conscious the ego separates what is real. It helps us to organise thoughts and make sense of them and the world around us in Freudian theory the ego mediates the id, the superego and the external world.
Its task is to find a balance between primitive drives and reality while satisfying the id and superego.

In today's society ego has many meanings it can mean one's self-esteem having an inflated sense of self worth or in more philosophical terms oneself.

The Superego

The superego aims for perfection it comprises that organise part of the personality structure is this is mainly unconscious sometimes it is called the conscience. The superego works contradictory to the a the id. the superego strives to act socially appropriate whereas the it just wants instant self gratification the superego controls our sense of right and wild and guilt it helps us to fit into society by getting us to act in socially acceptable ways.

Freud also came up with the idea of psychosexual development a central element in his sex drive theory is that our libido unfolds in a series of stages each stage is characterised by their erogenous zone that is the source of the libidinal drive during that stage. These stages are in order: the oral, the anal, the phallic, latency and genital. In a nutshell Freud believed that if during any stage the child experienced anxiety in relation to one of these drives that they will become stuck at this stage and experience themes related to its as and neurosis. Central to this concept is the “Oedipal complex” in males and the “Electra Complex” in females.

Sigmund Freud's prodigies such as Alfred Adler, Karl Abraham and Otto Rank & Wilhelm Reich who where analysed by Freud and had a brief apprentice type training from him before becoming psychoanalysts is in their own right started to develop their own theories and approaches which were sometimes different from Freud's; Carl Jung in particular a close friend and collaborator with Freud farm 1907 to 1913 eventually split from Freud and pursued the development of his own School of analytic psychology drawing heavily on both Freud and Adler’s ideas. All of these descendants of Freud's approach are characterised by a focus on the dynamics of the relationship between the different parts of the psyche and the external world thus the term psychodynamics.


Meanwhile a separate strand of psychological therapies were being developed under the influence of psychology and learning theory and leading thinkers such as a B.F. Skinner rejecting the notion of hidden aspects of the psyche which cannot be examined empirically began to focus on what could actually be observed in the outside world.

Some of the main influences of behaviourism came from Ivan Pavlov who investigated classical conditioning also Watson who is sought to restrict psychology to experimental methods and of course Skinner to conducted research on Operant conditioning.

Ivan Pavlov

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) developed classical conditioning, this is a form of associate of learning. The typical procedure for inducing classical conditioning involves presentations of neutral stimulus along with a stimulus of some significance. His most famous experiment involved paring a ringing of the bell with the presentation of food to dogs eventually the ringing of the bell became associated with getting food and elicited a saliva response in the dogs because they associated the ringing of the bell with food; this is what is considered a conditioned response.

John B. Watson

John Watson (1878 -1958) is best known as the founder of behaviourism in the USA which he defined as an experimental branch of natural science aimed at the prediction and control of behaviour. Its model was based on Ivan Pavlovs studies of conditioned reflex , every conduct was seen as a response to a stimulus or to complex set of stimulus situations. Watson thought from birth a few stimuli cause definite reactions but most behaviours were conditioned; the association of an unconditional stimuli to another stimuli.

Little Albert was one of the famous experiments done by Watson. This brand of behaviourism demonstrated classical conditioning empirically through experimentation using the little Albert experiment in which a child is called Albert Wyles presented with a white rat to which was later paired with a loud noise as the trials progressed the child started to show signs of distress at the sight of the rat and other white objects demonstrating the conditioning are taking place little Albert was also was trained be frightened of furry objects like stuffed animals and even his mother is coat. This kind of research is now considered unethical.

B.F. Skinner

Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904 – 1990) was an influential American psychologist, author, inventor, advocate for social reform, and poet. He invented the operant conditioning chamber, innovated his own philosophy of science called Radical Behaviorism,and founded his own school of experimental research psychology—the experimental analysis of behavior. His analysis of human behavior culminated in his work Verbal Behavior, which has recently seen enormous increase in interest experimentally and in applied settings.

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Hans Jürgen Eysenck

Eysenck (1916-1997) was another important figure in Behaviourism although he is more famous for his theory of personality and his role in developing behavioural treatments for mental disorders that are beyond the scope of this piece of work.

The School of Behaviourism has led to some excellent therapies such as Wolpes Systematic Desensitization, Ellis and Rational Emotive Therapy, CBT, and more recently NLP which grew out of the 'behavioural modelling' activity of Grinder and Bandler in studying Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls, and Milton H Erickson.

The Humanistic Approach

Humanistic movement was developed and driven by the likes of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, the humanistic approach was dubbed “the third force”; after Psychoanalysis & Behaviourism.

Abraham Maslow

Maslow became the leader of the humanist School of psychology that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s which he referred to as the third force beyond Freudian theory and behaviourism.

Maslow envisages human beings needs arranged like a ladder, the most basic needs where placed at the bottom such as food, sleep and water, physical things. Then came safety needs such as security and stability; then psychological or social needs for belonging ,for love, for acceptance and at the top of the ladder are the self actualising needs .

Maslow felt unfulfilled needs lower on the ladder would inhibit the person advancing to the next step . People who dealt in managing the higher needs were what he called self-actualizing people. People who actualise can be identified by the following and other characteristics: self-actualizing people tend to focus on problems outside of themselves, have a clear sense of what is true and what is false, are spontaneous and creative, and are not bound too strictly by social conventions.

Maslow also discussed “Peak experiences” which are profound moments of love, understanding, happiness, or rapture, when a person feels more whole, alive, self-sufficient and yet a part of the world, more aware of truth, justice, harmony, goodness, and so on. Self-actualizing people have many such peak experiences.

Maslow's thinking was surprisingly original for his time - most psychology before him had been concerned with the abnormal and the ill. He wanted to know what constituted positive mental health. Humanistic psychology gave rise to several different therapies, all guided by the idea that people possess the inner resources for growth and healing and that the point of therapy is to help remove obstacles to individuals' achieving this. The most famous of these was Person centred therapy developed by Carl Rogers.

Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers developed person centred therapy. It is based on the fundamental belief that human beings are essentially trustworthy social and creative.

Rogers developed a passionate belief in the potential of all individuals to flourish in conditions that are both supportive and respectful. Rogers thought that each person is a unified whole or an organism with a single basic motivational tendency to actualise; as Rogers put this: ' this is the inherent tendency of the organism to develop all its capacities in ways which serve to maintain or enhance the organism '.
There areTwo Basic Assumptions of person-centred therapy :

  1. Formative Tendency : the basic tendency for all organic matter to evolve into more complex forms. (The universe is constantly expanding!)
  2. Actualizing Tendency : the tendency within all living beings to move toward completion or fulfillment of their potential. The source of psychological growth and maturity lies within each of us.

The core conditions

Rogers felt that a therapist must have three “necessary and sufficient” qualities:

  1. Congruence - genuineness, honesty with the client.
  2. Empathy - the ability to feel what the client feels.
  3. Respect - acceptance, unconditional positive regard towards the client.

Rogers sees people as basically good or healthy; Mental health is the normal progression of life .
I’ve outlined some of the main concepts of Person Centred Therapy below:

Actualizing Tendency: The single "force of life", the built in motivation in every life form to develop to their full potential Rogers believes that all creatures strive to make the very best of their existence. Society and culture are seen as natural by products of this actualizing tendency.

Organismic Valuing: Placing value on things which assist the actualizing tendency. When we hunger, we find food - not just any food, but food that tastes good. Food that tastes bad is likely to be spoiled, rotten, unhealthy.

Positive Regard: love, affection, attention, and nurturing.

Positive Self-Regard: self-esteem, self-worth, positive self-image.

Unconditional Positive Regard – This is acceptance of the person without any conditions. It is sometimes shown by parents toward their children.

Real Self : The you which is founded in the actualizing tendency, follows organismic valuing, and needs and receives positive regard and self-regard.

Ideal self : Rogers is suggesting something that is always out of our reach, the standard we can’t meet. Personally I’m not convinced that this it is a useful concept as it suggests that we are In someway incomplete and can never achieve oneness or wholeness.

Incongruity is the gap between the Real and Ideal Self, and is the cause of neurosis.

The Ideal Self develops due to:
conditions of worth: As we grow up, our parents, teachers, peers, the media, and others, only give us what we need when we show we are "worthy," rather than just because we need it.

conditional positive regard: Because of societies expectations and rules, people may behave in ways which do little to encourage positive self-regard. A good little boy or girl may not be a psychologically healthy boy or girl!

conditional positive self-regard : We begin to like ourselves only if we meet up with the standards others have applied to us, rather than if we are truly actualizing our potentials.

For Rogers, "self-actualization" is a natural process, yet it requires the nurturance of a caregiver. This is a contradiction in Rogers' theory, which may or may not be obvious. If "self-actualization" is merely a natural process, then why must it depend on a caregiver for it to occur? In defence of Rogers, this paradox at least shows that, despite his individualistic bias, he understood deep down that people need people, that we are radically dependent on others for our existence, and that so-called "individuation-separation" involves a more differentiated and mature relationship with others rather than a lack of interdependence with others. In any case, Rogers felt that "unconditional positive regard" is necessary for "self-actualization." That is, human growth requires the experience of being valued for oneself regardless of the degree to which specific behaviours are approved or disapproved. On the other hand, self-actualization is thwarted by "conditional positive regard" -- when acceptance is dependent on the positive or negative evaluation of a person's actions. "Conditional positive regard," Rogers felt, leads to "conditions of worth," which, in turn, can lead to alienation from true feelings and, thus, to anxiety and threat, which blocks self-actualization.


O'Farrell, U. (Reprint 2001). First Steps in Counselling. Dublin: Veritas.

Rodgers, C. (1980). Way of Being. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Rogers, C. (2005). The Carl Rogers Reader edited by Kirschenbaum & Henderson. London: Counstable & Robertson.

Sanders, P. (2006). The Person Centred Counselling Primer. Trowbridge, UK: Cromwell Press.

Wilson, R. A. (1994). Prometheus Rising. Arizona: Falcon.

Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology (2001) 2Ed

Web Resources:

© 2009 Gareth Martin


Berga from SKIEN on September 06, 2011:

hey again..came across your page and chose to read this article.Interesting that i remembered only when i red the first comment about Reich ,that i have been inn here before and told my story... :) tell me what it means i came back? for sure very valuable info! thank you once more ..and i catch myself i've been evolving a bit since then...

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on January 06, 2011:

Hey Berga, Many happy returns to you too; its always a pleasure to meet someone else on a journey to being (a fully functioning person) I did some experiments with Reichs techniques, some of them are very interesting, have you read 'undoing yourself with energized meditation and other devises' by Christopher Hyatt? If you are interested in them(i found this book more accessable than some of Reichs own writings) and Carl Rogers is an interesting fellow to read indeed though a little bit too academic for my liking at times. Check out Irvin Yalom's 'on becoming a person' if your interested, he's a great writer and his style is easy to read IMHO.

Thanks for sharing some of your story with me. All the best for now and the future.

Berga from SKIEN on December 30, 2010:

Thank you very much for useful , concentrated information here:

"Because of societies expectations and rules, people may behave in ways which do little to encourage positive self-regard. A good little boy or girl may not be a psychologically healthy boy or girl! "

SOOOO true!

I was regarded as an example in my family and school.I liked it as a child -of course it was better than to hear much negative destructive comments on you and to be beaten, abused. I learned, from observing how others was punished for their behavior.Therefore I was a "good girl" How long does it last? Well In my first relationship when I was a student ( 19 years), my boyfriend repeatedly said to me" You think you are good, but you are not" and this sounds threatening, I was scared. We developed unhealthy relationship which ended tragic.My self- esteem was low..mean as a partner/not naturally healthy developing as a women I dreamed of... so I forgot about myself .My strong identity was "good doctor" Then came next test.Colleague "toke away" also this false identity. After all I'm thankful for finding the way back to my true self.. an interesting journey has begun...

Reg. W. Reich.I red some articles , did made sans and year ago I bought a zapper.Just examined, used for a while ( get burned too :))

He has indeed suffered though many today can benefit effective treatments from bio energetic therapy.

Carl Rogers" A way of being" will be a book I'll study soon:

Yes, it is my experience:" people possess the inner resources for growth and healing and that the point of therapy is to help remove obstacles to individuals' achieving this. "

Thank you for sharing. Thank you you found me here:) I will continue to follow your stuff here.

Happy New Year!

sarah smith on November 19, 2010:

has anyone done level 3 counselling course and can help with an assingment?

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on September 22, 2009:

Hi Vern, yes being a Dad rocks! I've read a couple of Reich's works. He was an interesting character for sure - did you know it was him who coined the phrase "Make love, not war!". Janov took Reichs work and turned it into primal therapy. I know my old Philosophy Lecturer swears by the orgone accumulator, she reckons it cured her Arthritis by helping to release the pain she felt as a child when her Piano teacher would hit her with a ruler every time she missed a note, once she delt with the stored trauma the inflamation went away!

Vernon Bradley from Yucaipa, California on September 21, 2009:

Hey, I'm slow. I just read your profile and now I know why you are interested in all the above. Congrats on being a Dad. You'll love it!

Vernon Bradley from Yucaipa, California on September 21, 2009:

Wow, you gave us a LOT of information. What is your interest in all of this? You didn't mention much about Wilhelm Reich. Not sure if I spelled it correctly, but he developed an interesting theory about body energy and I believe died in prison for creating a box that could capture the energy of orgasm. Folks thought he was a quack! But his work lead to the devleopment of bioenergetic therapy which is pretty legitimate and quite powerful in freeing up energy blocks. And the notion of energy getting stuck or needing to be freed fits into what we know about neurology. The amygdala actually sends messages to our muscles to either move toward or away from an event. We experience that message as emotions or feelings. However, if the resultant feelings are too overwhelming, then our brain stem takes over and the resultant emotional energy in a sense gets stored in an unconscious memory in the amydala, waiting to be fired off in response to anything that remotely reminds the brain of the original "trauma." Some pretty interesting stuff. The development of Object Relations and Attachment theory is also pretty awesome stuff.

Well, anyway, a very nice presentation on some of the major players. Thanks


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