“My students are learning the theories of counseling and the theories of marriage and family therapy. The theoretical foundation of a clinician is very important because it guides how you work with clients.
When students start practicing as a counselor, in order to be effective, they have to have some sort of guidance for themselves, and that’s what they get from their theory. That’s why your theory has to be a good fit with your worldview. You have to be able to conceptualize your own life within the framework of that theory.”
Why is understanding theory important in counseling?
There are three steps to really understanding theory. First, you have to get the information – you have to know the terms and the concepts. Second, you have to see the theory in action. Students often say they read about theories, but when they see it in action, it’s a completely different concept than what they thought it was in the reading. Third, they need to apply the theory. That’s what students enjoy the most, because we do a lot of experiential types of learning in the classroom.”
How does a student learn how to apply theory?
“When you think about your own life, how would you explain how those problems came about, and how would you explain how you were able to overcome those problems? Those ideas are extremely important in your theoretical foundation. A big part of any theory is, “how do problems develop and how do you overcome problems?”
When students try to express one of the therapeutic strategies we’ve discussed in the class, they often come to a realization about their own lives. When they do and make those connections, it’s often very powerful for them."