The Theoretical Orientation Profile Scale-Revised: A Validation Study

By Worthington, Roger L.; Dillon, Frank R. | Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, July 2003 | Go to article overview

The Theoretical Orientation Profile Scale-Revised: A Validation Study


Worthington, Roger L., Dillon, Frank R., Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development


This study supported evidence of reliability and validity of the Theoretical Orientation Profile Scale-Revised (TOPS-R) scores. The TOPS-R was designed to measure theoretical orientation among counselors and trainees. Factor analysis yielded a 6-factor solution accounting for 87.5% of the total variance in the scale. The 6 factors corresponded to 6 schools of psychotherapy (i.e., psychoanalytic/psychodynamic, humanistic/existential, cognitive-behavioral, family systems, feminist, and multicultural).

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Theoretical orientation and its measurement in counseling and psychotherapy have received a great deal of attention across several decades. Even as psychotherapy driven by strict adherence to a single theoretical orientation seems to be on the decline, a vast number of counselors continue to identify themselves with one or more orientations, and graduate training in counseling continues to emphasize theoretical orientation. In addition, although the classic comparative outcome studies do not provide evidence for the differential impact of theoretical orientation in the effectiveness of counseling (Wampold, 2000), there is substantial evidence that counselors of different theoretical orientations exhibit different epistemic beliefs, verbal response behavior, and specific therapeutic techniques (Poznanski & McLennan, 1995). Therefore, theoretical orientation remains an important variable in the study of processes and outcomes in counseling and psychotherapy.

Counseling theories historically have been categorized into three central schools: cognitive-behavioral, humanistic/existential, and psychoanalytic/psychodynamic (Pedersen, 1991; Warwar & Greenberg, 2000). More recently, both feminist counseling and multicultural counseling have become prominent conceptual and practical influences in the field, suggesting that these approaches need to be included in any measure of theoretical orientation. Indeed, after psychoanalytic/psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, and humanistic/existential schools of thought, multiculturalism has been identified as a "fourth force" in psychology (Pedersen, 1991). Furthermore, although family counseling could be considered by some to be only a distinct modality (e.g., as compared to individual or group modalities), there is also a group of formal theories that can be classified as family systems theories (e.g., Bowen, 1978; Minuchin, 1974), containing distinct perspectives regarding human development, human change processes, and psychotherapy. Although a thorough discussion of the debate regarding the relative efficacy of the various theoretical approaches to counseling is beyond the scope of this article, it is important to note that Wampold (2000) has declared that the current research evidence seems to support the notion that common factors rather than specific ingredients lead to positive outcomes. However, Wampold (2000) also argued that specific ingredients were necessary to construct a coherent treatment and were therefore "absolutely necessary in therapy" (p. 735). Thus, although some may argue that measurement of theoretical orientation has become moot in an age when the relative efficacy of different approaches has not been supported and eclecticism rules the profession, it is apparent that relative adherence to specific approaches that are grounded in one of the six identified schools of psychotherapy is a distinct and important point of inquiry among counseling researchers and practitioners.

The most common approach for assessing theoretical orientation is the reliance on global self-ascriptions (Guinee, 2000), which ultimately yield categorical data of restricted utility. Although evidence suggests that global self-ascriptions may be valid, they may be of little use in tapping the eclectic application of approaches characteristic of today's practice world (Poznanski & McLennan, 1995). Instead, as recommended by Hill and O'Grady (1985), the use of a theoretical orientation profile is a more appropriate strategy than a single categorization, so that a multifaceted construct is measured (Poznanski & McLennan, 1995) and relative adherence to different schools of therapy can be observed. …

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