Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Using the Systems of Care Philosophy within Counseling to Promote Human Potential

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Using the Systems of Care Philosophy within Counseling to Promote Human Potential

Article excerpt

   The Systems of Care Philosophy, which incorporates clients' unique needs
   and strengths, encourages communication and involvement across disciplines
   and incorporates both traditional and nontraditional treatments to promote
   goal attainment, is the focus of this article. The authors present examples
   of Systems of Care Philosophy from clinical practice.

The advent of managed care has significantly affected mental health treatment and has increased emphasis on standardized treatment protocols (Karon, 1995; Lawless, Ginter, & Kelly, 1999; Miller, 1996). For example, clients who are served by managed care services and who present with similar symptomatology may likely be placed in diagnostic related groups (DRGs) that dictate the specific counseling theory to be used (e.g., behavioral therapy), the modality of counseling (e.g., group counseling), and the number of treatment sessions that will be reimbursed (Hawkins, 1991), but this process is done with little consideration for the individual client's uniqueness or presenting needs.

Undoubtedly, managed care has contained or limited escalating mental health treatment costs (Cummings, Budman, & Thomas, 1998; Patricelli & Lee, 1996), but at what cost to clients and their families? The human condition is complex, and the underlying causes of what frequently appear as similar presenting symptomatology within DRGs are often varied and unrelated. Thus, instead of embracing standardized mental health approaches, which tend to be reductionistic in nature and to devalue clients' strengths and resources, a counseling philosophy needs to be implemented that celebrates and values an individual's uniqueness and that incorporates many of the fundamental tenets of professional counseling. Such a philosophy is described in this article. The Systems of Care Philosophy has gained increased recognition in the mental health treatment professions (Rosenblatt, 1996; VanDenBerg & Grealish, 1996) but has gone relatively unnoticed in the professional counseling literature. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to describe the Systems of Care Philosophy, its match with the basic tenets of professional counseling, and how the philosophy has been used with clients. The Systems of Care Philosophy promotes an intervention that recognizes each individual's unique potential.


The nonpathological underpinnings of the Systems of Care Philosophy (Handron, Dosser, McCammon, & Powell, 1998; VanDenBerg & Grealish, 1996) support professional counseling's central philosophical premise of focusing and building on client strengths (Brooks & Gerstein, 1990). Both philosophies view clients as healthy rather than pathological. Thus, instead of searching for an underlying psychopathology that supposedly is causing reported distress, counselors identify and emphasize individual client competencies, strengths, and possibilities rather than deficits, weaknesses, and limitations. Concomitantly, the Systems of Care Philosophy and professional counseling theory create an expectation of successful resolution to presenting concerns and respect client potential to engender change (Vacc & Loesch, 1994; VanDenBerg & Grealish, 1996). Hence, clients are empowered, because the change agents are not the counselors but the clients themselves.

In addition, the Systems of Care Philosophy and professional counseling mutually require culturally competent counseling interventions that value clients' unique ethnic, historical, religious, and social compositions (VanDenBerg & Grealish, 1996). For example, a Catholic Polish American client, residing in a densely populated Polish American community and reporting significant involvement with her church and community, may choose to invite people she respects to participate in her counseling process. Another example might be a Native American adolescent attending public school and failing courses. …

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