Essay Sample Comparing and Contrasting Two Theoretical Approaches to Counselling

Published: 2022-07-04
Essay Sample Comparing and Contrasting Two Theoretical Approaches to Counselling
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Counseling
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1732 words
15 min read

Unlike animals, human beings have the ability to interpret feelings and emotions differently. The interpretation is different depending on the way people see things. The differences in humanity make it necessary to have different ways of counseling people. Counseling involves giving people or clients some social, and professional guidance to people to help them to meet solve their personal, psychological and social challenges (Gelso, Nutt Williams, & Fretz, 2014). The process involves a professional or trained counselor discussing the issues that affect the client and coming up with possible solutions that can help to solve the issues. There are different approaches to counseling depending on the understanding of human nature. For example, in the psychodynamic approach, the view is that human nature is controlled by the conscious, subconscious and the unconscious parts of the mind. The same approach identifies that human personality is divided into ego, Id and superego parts which also determine the way people act. The understanding of humans in this way guides the counselors in assisting people to control these parts. In the humanistic approach, the view is that problems are not caused by the life events but rather by the way people react to them. The two approaches to be compared in the essay are psychodynamic and existential approach because they both have diverse views which can be used to inform on how human beings live.

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The views about human beings are different in the approaches used. In the psychodynamic approach, the view about humans is that people have parts of their minds and their personality that determines their behavior. The view is that the human mind is divided into three parts which include the conscious, subconscious and unconscious. The approach states that the conditions of these three parts of the mind and the three personality states which include the ego, id, and superego, create the motivational forces that control the human behavior. The approach states that the different parts of the human brain and personality interact differently and determine the way people react to situations. For example, the id is believed to be present in a person from birth and is responsible for all primitive behaviors and energy while the ego is the part of the personality that deals with the reality. It develops from the id and it ensures that the imaginations of the id are expressed in a manner that is acceptable in the real world. The superego is the part that withholds the things people learn from the environment and holds the moral standards that people express. It is believed to develop at the age of five years (Luyten, Mayes, Fonagy, Blatt, & Target, 2017). The approach also considers the energy from the mind parts and how the interaction determines the final behavior portrayed by people.

In the existential approach, the view is that the human beings have the ability to be self-aware of the issues that affect them and to make a decision that is rational. The other view is that all human beings have a unique character that can only be understood through interaction with other people. The other view is that human beings need to be dynamic and should re-create themselves based on the changes that occur in their environment. The other one is that anxiety is part of the human nature and it is not abnormal to have anxiety. When the approach is used, the counselor concentrates on the person rather than the environment around them (Spinelli, 2014). The approach states that people should be held responsible for the decisions and actions they portray because they are expected to control them.

The psychodynamic approach and the existential approach have different understandings of the counseling process and they both give different expectations at the end of the counseling sessions. For example, in psychodynamic approach, the approach considers that there are things in the different parts of the human brain that are not possible to control and that some of the motivations in behavior are as a result of these features of a human brain. The feelings and emotions in the unconscious mind determine the human behavior and they are usually unacceptable or unpleasant. They include pain, anxiety, and conflict. The feelings cannot be detected by human beings but they determine the way they feel and make decisions. The difference between this view and that of existential is that the latter assumes that people are capable of controlling all actions that happen around them and they have full control of their self-awareness.

The similarity between the two is that they recognize the ability to control the behavior and actions to some extent. As the existential approach states that human beings are in full control of what happens around them, the psychodynamic approach also states that the conscious mind is responsible for the actions that people portray. People can talk and act rationally by the use of the conscious part of the brain. The other difference is that in existential approach, the counselor fosters the ability of the individual to take control of their lives and the responsibility of making the right decisions to confront the negative feelings (Vos, Craig, & Cooper, 2015). In the psychodynamic approach, the counselor aims at explaining how the different forces take part in influencing the human behavior and how to reduce their negativity.

The application of the two approaches is different and the counselors follow separate methods to enhance therapeutic progress. The existential approach is assumed to be pessimistic because of the approach used by the counselors (Cooper, 2016). The sessions involve confronting the life concerns of loneliness, suffering, and meaninglessness. The counselor seeks to understand the experiences of the client and this is used to identify the challenges they have (Vos, Craig, & Cooper 2015). The anxiety associated with the behavior and decisions made by the client is used to advise them on how to take responsibility for their actions. The client is required to decide on how they can exist in the world where death, conflicts, and uncertainty are common. The counselor does not seek to make the decisions for the client or to help them choose the responsible decisions.

In the psychodynamic approach, the counselor believes that the behavior of the client is as a result of some unconscious forces that they cannot control. The unconscious thoughts can be transferred from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind and affect the decisions made. Therefore, in a session of counseling, the counselor helps the client to understand their experiences and what could be the cause of their emotions and how to control them. Unlike in the existential approach, the counselor advises the client on the ways to avoid the negative emotions. The sessions also involve creating a good therapeutic relationship between the client and the counselor (Steinert, Munder, Rabung, Hoyer, & Leichsenring, 2017). The counselor uses the historical information about the client, just like in the existential approach, and identifies the things that may be in their different parts of their brains and which could be affecting them. For example, if the client states that the counselor sounds like their dad, it is an indication that their memories of their father are in their unconscious brain. The expression of ego, id, and superego is also portrayed through the different behavioral aspects and the counselor helps them to overcome their fears.

In conclusion, it is clear that the two approaches have differences and similarities that define their application. The view about human beings is the key difference, whereby the psychodynamic approach states that human beings act in line with their brains; the conscious, subconscious and unconscious brains. The other difference is that it explains of the ego, id and superego and their impacts on human behavior. For the existential approach, the view is that human beings have full control of their actions and they can be held responsible for the outcomes of their behavior. The other difference is in the application, whereby psychodynamic seeks to help people to understand how their mind works and to control their motivations while the existential approach instills the ability to make decisions responsibly. The similarities are that they are both effective in controlling the actions and they agree to some extent on the responsibility of making the right decisions.

The differences and similarities are as a result of the premises that guide the view about human nature in each of the approaches. The fundamental differences in the way people think and respond to different stimuli have led to the many studies on how the challenges that people face can be avoided. The reactions to anger, disappointment, betrayal, fear and insecurity and others determine the way people behave. For example, a person who has experienced a fearful encounter in the past may develop a condition in their unconscious brain which may make them fearful of many similar instances. The psychodynamic approach centers on this human nature to determine the behavioral trend observed. The two approaches show that it is possible to predict and influence human behavior.


Cooper, M. (2016). Existential therapies. Sage.

Gelso, C. J., Nutt Williams, E., & Fretz, B. R. (2014). Counseling psychology. American Psychological Association.

Luyten, P., Mayes, L. C., Fonagy, P., Blatt, S. J., & Target, M. (Eds.). (2017). Handbook of psychodynamic approaches to psychopathology. Guilford Publications.

Spinelli, E. (2014). Practicing existential therapy: The relational world. Sage.

Steinert, C., Munder, T., Rabung, S., Hoyer, J., & Leichsenring, F. (2017). Psychodynamic therapy: as efficacious as other empirically supported treatments? A meta-analysis testing equivalence of outcomes. American Journal of Psychiatry, 174(10), 943-953.

Vos, J., Craig, M., & Cooper, M. (2015). Existential therapies: A meta-analysis of their effects on psychological outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(1), 115.

Vos, J., Craig, M., & Cooper, M. (2015). Existential therapies: A meta-analysis of their effects on psychological outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(1), 115.


In the process of writing the essay, I held three meetings with friends who helped me to discuss the various aspects of the approaches. The pool of knowledge helped to meet most of the requirements and it also increased my understanding of how counseling works and how it can be improved. The three meetings were held in the classroom and library and involved two of my friends and a counselor in school. The meetings involved discussions on the approaches and how effective they are in real life. The notes from the meetings were used to come up with the final essay.

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