Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Detrimental Association: An Epistemological Connection of Dysfunction within and across Paradigms

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Detrimental Association: An Epistemological Connection of Dysfunction within and across Paradigms

Article excerpt

The notion of common factors in counseling and psychotherapy theory is not new. This article contends that detrimental associations are the root of dysfunction and are common to all theories of counseling and psychotherapy. The article defines detrimental associations as organic or auxiliary connections formed by clients that lead to dysfunction. Associations deemed detrimental include a variety of aspects of a client's life, depending upon the theoretical lens through which dysfunction is viewed. The article explores how detrimental associations are conceptualized by level and across theories and paradigms and discusses implications for professional counseling.


Professional counselors subscribe to a variety of theoretical orientations that promote well-being and change. Levitt, Darnell, Erford, and Vernon (2014) suggested that many of these theories are categorized by common characteristics or paradigms (e.g., humanistic/existential, behavioral/cognitive-behavioral, psychoanalytic). Each paradigm incorporates a distinct set of principles, strategies, and techniques. For example, the humanistic/existential paradigm emphasizes innate goodness, self-actualization, and insight (Miller, Sward, Nielsen, & Robertson, 2011), and the psychoanalytic paradigm accentuates unconscious conflicts, maladaptation, and unresolved issues (Jacobs, 2010). While not professionally bound to do so, counselors often practice from a single theoretical orientation, seldom venturing across paradigms (Levitt et al., 2014). However, Bike, Norcross, and Shatz (2009) found that almost a quarter of professional counselors in the United States identify as eclectic or integrative.

Cottone (2012) suggested four large and encompassing paradigms of counseling and psychotherapy. These are not just theoretical; they are distinguished politically and by practice-relevant differences. The "metatheoretical frameworks" he identified are the organic-medical, psychological, systemic-relational, and social constructivism paradigms. The practice of psychiatry, distinct from counseling and psychotherapy, is an example of the organic-medical paradigm. The psychological paradigm emphasizes cognition, emotion, and behavior as central to individual well-being. It encompasses many common models of counseling, such as rational emotive behavior therapy (Ellis, 1962) and person-centered counseling (Rogers, 1951). The systemic-relational paradigm emphasizes relationships rather than the individual (Taylor & Cottone,

2011); structural family therapy (Minuchin, 1974) is closely aligned with the core concepts of this paradigm. Finally, the emerging social-constructivist paradigm attempts to acknowledge the individual while recognizing the system in which the individual has an integral role (Cottone, 2012); examples of social-constructivist principles are narrative therapy (White, 2007) and solution-focused therapy (de Shazer, 1985).

While paradigms are a means of organizing theoretical frameworks, concepts within and across counseling and psychotherapy theory and practice often converge. Staats (1999) suggested that paradigms can be unified by addressing redundant concepts in theories and formulating a bridging theory--a metatheory--of diverging concepts. Later, Hanna (2011) argued that the emergence of a comprehensive paradigm would help the profession to become more cohesive, collaborative, and integrative. More recently, Prochaska and Norcross (2014) presented a transtheoretical model of psychotherapy based on processes, stages, and levels of change. This integrative model draws from numerous theoretical paradigms. As many have suggested, carefully analyzing theoretical paradigms can promote philosophical discourse and higher-order critical perspectives within the counseling profession (Cottone, 2007).

This article addresses the suggestions of Staats (1999), Hanna (2011), and others by presenting a theoretically conceived construct called detrimental association (DA). …

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