A paradigm shift in counseling philosophy

| Counseling Today

Many currently practicing counselors probably were a bit young to take part in the last paradigm shift, from the psychology of the individual to what is called “social systems theory.” That shift occurred from the 1950s through the 1980s. I was able to become involved only at the tail end of that movement (with publication of an article, “A Systemic Theory of Vocational Rehabilitation,” in 1987).

We are now in the middle of another shift of counseling philosophy that has potential to become a major theoretical movement in the field. This movement is postmodern at its foundation, meaning it is more about relationships than individuals, and it is best represented in what has been defined as the “social constructivism” paradigm of counseling and psychotherapy.


Counseling theory has matured from its early focus on individuals, represented in the classic psychology-aligned theories of counseling such as psychoanalytic psychotherapy, person-centered therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy, behavior therapy and others. Next came a focus on relationship structures in classic systemic therapies such as structural family therapy or strategic family therapy. Now there is an evolving focus on the social consensualizing of problems and solutions. This appears to be occurring in emerging therapies such as solution-focused therapy and narrative therapy, which are social constructivist in their underpinnings.

A paradigm shift in counseling philosophy | Counseling Today.


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