In this essay I will compare and contrast person-centred and existential counselling with family therapy. In so doing, I will, in effect, explore the natural dividing line between biological/psychological approaches that are both intrapersonal and humanistic (focussed on individual human potentiality), and an alternative interpersonal therapy that is concerned with influencing the behaviour of individual members of a family towards it and the individual’s better functioning.
I will show that the main difference lies in the type of components that make up the theoretical construct on which the approaches are based, that these were derived in a context that is less relevant now, and that they determine the specific approach to therapy in practice.
Taking the approaches in turn, I will then show that, given the individual-systemic divide, both the humanistic and the family therapy endeavours are similar in that they attempt to promote change in the overall organisation of either the individual or the family by changing the structural components. I will show that the goal of change in all the therapies is coherence, ‘a congruent interdependence in functioning whereby all the aspects of the system fit together’ (Browne, 2013) without distortions and whereby the person can make sense of his or her world. To conclude, I will suggest that in a given situation and at various times it may be appropriate as proposed by Browne (ibid.) to work flexibly with one model, another, or sequentially or concurrently with two or three.
A Word on Humanism
Maslow called humanism the ‘third force’ in therapy, following psychodynamic which came first and behavioural therapy that ensued. In contrast to psychoanalysis from which it emerged, it is not deterministic, rather emphasising personal choice and concomitant responsibility. It derived from European philosophy. In the Humanistic school, there are three therapies, Person-centred, Existential and Gestalt....