Non-directive counseling is a humanistic approach to psychological treatment and counseling that encourages the therapist to listen, support and advise the client without taking a position for or against their behavior changes. Gamble et al. (2002) described non-directive counseling as a form of counseling where the therapist needs to be client-centered, non-judgmental and empathetic to ensure that neutrality is maintained. This form of counseling, which focuses more on what the client wants and needs instead of advice, has become a popular form as it has been considered empowering in helping clients tackle their problems. Gordon and Grummon (1948) explained that for the counselor, tackling the client’s feelings and attitudes without judgment can assist them in exploring, access, and change their behavior efficiently.
To date, non-directive counseling is considered a vital part of client-centered therapy as it gives the client the power to direct their therapy sessions by providing a positive influence in the form of the therapist/counselor. However, despite the general understanding that non-directive counseling promotes the client’s decision making, there exists a wide variance in the definition of processes and operations. For example, most non-directive counseling centers do not keep formal records of clients, and in other clients determine the number of sessions they need. Regardless of the purposes of these agreements, therefore, an expectation for non-directive counseling is that it should help the client reach decisions wisely. Rather than the counselor offering their wise decisions/thoughts, they assist the client in getting these impressive results on their own. For clients using this form of counseling, their ability to become more confident in their ability to make decisions is boosted.
Carl Rogers shed more light on the client-centered approach in his research as he proposed that non-directive counseling depends on two significant factors, the non-directive/mirroring phase and the attitude-focused phase. In the non-directive phase, Rogers posed that therapy clients seek help because they experience negative feelings. Thus, for the process to transform the negative to positive, the therapist helps them in recognizing, clarifying, and accepting their feelings. The therapist, essentially, becomes the guide that helps the client to reach positive change on their own. Roger’s second phase, attitude-focused, shifts the view to the therapist’s capacity and attitudes as an individual since they are a significant part of the process. The conclusion by Rogers was that the therapist needs empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard of the client’s situation, albeit the words, feelings, and emotions.
Non-directive therapy has been well-received by many schools of thought for its belief in the person/client, whom Rogers felt had the power to arrive at the right conclusions when directed. By merely listening to the client, helping them to share their experiences without judgment, the process helped. As opposed to directive counseling, non-directive counseling considers that everything about the client’s life and experiences is essential. Directive counseling is the opposite of the non-directive approach as in this technique, and the counselor plays an important role. One difference is that in directive counseling, the direction is counselor-centered, where they make relevant decisions that will affect the client’s process. For example, most directive counseling sessions are determined by the counselor, where the time is set, the topic discussed, explored, and the outcomes assessed.
The significant steps of the directive counseling approach include analysis, synthesis, diagnosis, prognosis, counseling, and follow-up. The therapist’s tasks are to collect information that is later synthesized and after the problem is diagnosed, implement strategies for change. Some of the advantages of directive counseling, as compared to the non-directive approach include that it saves time since the therapist sets the limits by determining which aspects of the client’s life need to be focused on. Another advantage is that the process focuses more on the problem and the person since the therapist has the freedom to talk with other parties such as family members. Some of the limitations of directive counseling include dependency and a lack of independence. In this approach, the client has no power to make decisions and the actions of the therapist influence their experiences. The probability of the client making the same mistakes in the future are high since they never learn how they can solve issues themselves.
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