Theoretical Orientation PaperSona TopalianUniversity of Southern California Personal PhilosophyI typically do not like to criticize people nor do I like to persuade them to go about their lives the way that society dictates. I learned to allow people to live authentically a long time ago. Part of that learning came from the realization that I have never liked being told how to live my life. This had become apparent within my first few years of math in elementary school. I would consistently develop my own tactics rather than utilize the formulas that had been forced upon me.

I never enjoyed math, so finding ways for it to be more interesting for me helped me get through my assignments. While these newfound strategies worked better for me, my teachers never appreciated my creativity, even after getting to the same answer. Despite the resistance, I had carried on doing things my own way. Similarly, I encourage others to lead an easier and more fulfilling life by doing the things that work better for them.

I don’t even like to train my dog because I think that he should live for himself and do what he feels he needs to. Granted there are limits, as I make sure he knows not to attack people and to not do his dirty business in the house. But I like for him to eat and drink as he pleases.

To play when he has the energy, and rest when he doesn’t. I’ve been told several times that a dog needs to be on a schedule, designating times to eat and play. However, he is his own being and should have the freedom to live his life without my control. He may be my dog, but I feel as though I have no right to dictate his life.

I find myself feeling that way toward a lot of things in life. I constantly tell my friends and family to do what makes them happy. I try not to impose my opinions or beliefs on anyone as I believe that everyone has a right to their own feelings, beliefs, and methods about doing things.

I prefer to have the freedom to do things my own way. I do not like to follow specific rules, so I utilize my creativity to come up with personalized techniques to be used within different aspect of my life. That being said, I know just how difficult it is to employ that freedom and authenticity in a society as demanding as ours. My hopes are to help people live meaningful lives without depriving themselves of their own desires.I believe there are several factors contributing to how humans choose to behave. Whether we like to think we are aware of it or not, we do just that, we choose the behave. The vast majority of people have their intuitive initial reactions, but rarely, if ever, act on them. This may be due to social norms, their education, or how they were raised Thus I have grown to understand that we do not, and may never, live authentic lives because sometimes our initial response to life can be inappropriate, rude, or in some cases dangerous.

On the other hand, I do think that people are capable of modifying the way they think. For example, I think that an extremely negative person can learn to see life more positively, but I do not think they could apply that to absolutely every aspect of their lives Natural inhibitions will never disappear in their entirety, but that does not mean they aren’t are susceptible to modification.Behavior typically tends to follow patterns. For example, if we were to observe a pessimistic person and how they handle life situations, we’d see that they typically follow the same routine which generally continues to add to their negativity. This may continue for years until they encounter a major adversity and realize that their typical approach will no longer work. This is generally the initial stepping stone to change. People usually want to change usually when they hit extremes.

Whether it be the proverbial “rock bottom” or the best day of their lives. With exceptional life experiences, people tend to want to make new patterns to better themselves and their lives.Theoretical approach Existentialism, Person Centered, and Gestalt theory are all under the humanistic approach. This compels the client to lead their own lives as the expert and embodies the ideal that people are essentially good and capable of change and growth.

In a Humanistic therapy session, a client must feel respected, accepted, and trust their therapist in order to be capable of such growth. The goals of this approach are to help clients find congruency within themselves and their true nature, and to depart from the beliefs of what they should do. In this theory, therapists explore what it is that the individual wants and needs to subsequently improve their quality of life. Humans must remain true to themselves, otherwise they may behave destructively. In this theory, personality develops through trust, respect and care. With that, an individual can reach spiritual and emotional equilibrium. Psychopathology develops when an individual is able to experience “I Am”.

This means that the individual has come to the realization that they are the one’s living and experiencing and should not be influenced by external life conditions. Existential theorists do not have a specific approach that they take, therefore there are no techniques or guidelines to follow. Therapist must try to understand the life in which the client exists in. By remaining subjective, the therapist tries to understand what the client is feeling as everyone’s experiences may vary. While there are no specific guidelines to follow in this form of therapy,it is important to remain subjective, caring and respectful. To make sure that the client is aware of their own freedom to make choices and more importantly, to remain authentic.Nothing is without its own strengths and limitations and this form of therapy is no exception. The most prominent limitation of this theory is that it may not be applicable to oppressed cultures.

It is also highly individualistic and can be difficult to master. However, Contemporary versions make it easier to use and provides a theoretical framework to use as a foundation. It also tends to create a conductive way of working and as a result is good to use with a client. Duane A. Halbur and Kimberly Vess Halbur (2015)First, by establishing the realization of “I am”, this means that the client is able to reach the understanding that they are experiencing everything for their own being as external factors often prevent people from living their true lives. A common tactic of this therapy is the explanation of the concept of anxiety to the client.

In the humanistic approach, anxiety is normalized and by explaining the differences between normal anxiety and neurotic anxiety, the therapist can be successful in helping a client normalize their feelings.  Exploring the four existential truths; death, isolation, freedom and meaninglessness, can help a client find acceptance and live better fulfilling lives. These four givens, also referred to as ultimate concerns, form the body of existential psychotherapy and compose the framework to which a therapist conceptualizes a client’s problem in order to develop an effective method of treatment. Existentialism also embraces the human condition of being alone, to live in the freedom of and take responsibility for one’s choices. This instills the courage necessary an individual to take initiative and change the direction of their own lives. An individual can choose a new meaning for their life because emphasis is put mainly on the choices the client is going to make in the present that will influence their future. Not much emphasis is put on the client’s past, however.

Attention is shifted from past choices to future choices to delve deeper into their meaning and facilitate further development. By accepting that an individual is unique, and that they create meaning for their own lives, clients can slowly deter themselves from future anxieties about future decisions or how to live their lives. PopulationThe population I hope to work with most is adolescents to young adults in school settings. This was my inspiration for getting into a Marriage and Family Therapy program.

I value education and believe that everyone should have an equal opportunity in going to school and excelling in their studies. However, I am not oblivious to life’s unexpectancies given I have had quite a share of my own. I know how much familial stresses and obstacles can hinder one’s matriculation to a school as well as their success in a program. I am also very aware of the cultural effects that may complicate the lives of adolescents in their growing stages as they try to balance acculturating themselves within society while remaining true to their roots. That is a common struggle in most immigrant families that may come in the way of children leading their lives true to themselves.

My goal is to allow young adults the opportunity to create meaning for their own lives, despite external pressures and conflict. I think that the strong foundational affect in knowing who you are and what you want is what will slowly create change in the world. Inner peace is the start of world peace. Application”There is a focus on helping the client to understand the ways in which reality is influenced by past experience, present perceptions, and expectations for the future. Schor describes the process through which our experiences assume meaning as apperception” (Schor, 1998). Becoming aware of this process yields insight and facilitates the ability to choose new ways of being and acting.

According to, Berman, S. L., Weems, C. F.

, & Stickle, T. R. (2006) the data suggests that existential anxiety concerns are common among young adults and they are associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as psychological distress related to identity problems. “Adolescence is an important time to study the development of existential concerns.

Models of social and cognitive development suggest that by the high-school years youth are able to comprehend the meaning of life and death and that broader life issues become salient (Warren and Sroufe, 2004; Westenberg et al., 2001). For example, research suggests that even by around 13 years of age fears of death and dying are a prominent concern (Weems and Costa, in press). In addition, psychosocial developmental theory (e.g., Erikson, 1963, 1968) suggests that adolescence is a critical period in the development of life goals and values as well as in the establishment of a sense of direction and purpose in life.

While a person develops their sense of identity (who they are, what they believe in, and where they are going), existential concerns should become prominent.” O’Brien, B. S. (2005)According to Journal of Humanistic Psychology, core existential concepts can been empirically supported to effectively treat and enhance outcomes in adolescent’s capacity to to contemplate existential concerns as well as evidence indicating existential focus on mental health. Specific recommendations regarding how existential thinking can be incorporated into the treatment of many anxious and depressed adolescents have been essential. Shumaker, D. (2012) Multicultural Considerations Given my desire to work with a diverse population of young adults, mostly from a school setting, existential theory is best for incorporating multicultural ideals. This theory is solely based on the experiences and inner desires of the client.

This may be the most effective way in healing a wide range of people.This theory may be difficult for oppressed cultures to accept and work with. They could feel that they do not have the freedom to make their own choices when this theory believes that individuals have the freedom to do so.

With that, this approach may seem insensitive for people of oppressed backgrounds who did not have the freedom to make their own choices, thur creating meaning for their own lives. ResultsI find it interesting that my three highest scores were Person-Centered Therapy, Gestalt and REBT. Most of which are in the humanistic disciplines.My results in the H&H book were different than my chosen theory. My highest score was in Person- Centered Therapy. I can see how my results were highest in person centered because It develops when the idea of self is incongruent with the real self.

The result of that would be the client’s desire to seek help to self actualize. The therapist’s role is to set the stage for change and foster growth. The therapist demonstrates equality and that he/she has no need for special background because they are educated by the expertise of the client with their genuine desire to learn about them.

Strengths are that client autonomy results in self actualization. It can be supportive without being challenging. The theory states that it is a complex process toward achieving goals. It demonstrates a respect for client’s ability to change by incorporating them into the treatment plan with respect to client’s independence.

The developed personality can be represented through language, written word and art. I feel that there are many similarities between the two. Existential may have more structure in the role of guiding the client’s thoughts in the journey to self actualize as opposed to person centered therapy. “Failure to find meaning in life, the feeling that one has nothing to live for, nothing to struggle for, nothing to hope for … unable to find any goal or direction in life, the feeling that though individuals perspire in their work, they have nothing to aspire to.

” -Benjamin Wolman ReferencesO’Brien, B. S. (2005). The effects of existential -phenomenological group counseling on   identity style, self -efficacy, aggressive tendencies and locus of control of students in an alternative high school (Order No. 3168503).

Available from ProQuest Central; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Full Text; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (305427172). Retrieved from

edu/docview/305427172?accountid=14749Berman, Steven L., et al. “Existential Anxiety in Adolescents: Prevalence, Structure, Association with Psychological Symptoms and Identity Development.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, vol. 35, no. 3, 2006, pp. 285–292., doi:10.

1007/s10964-006-9032-y. Shumaker, D. (2012). An existential–integrative treatment of anxious and depressed adolescents. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 52(4), 375-400. doi:http://dx.doi. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 1999. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No.

34.) Chapter 6 –Brief Humanistic and Existential Therapies. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm. Duane A. Halbur and Kimberly Vess Halbur (2015) Developing Your Theoretical Orientation in Counseling and Psychotherapy, 62-63


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