Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

College Counseling Center Clients' Expectations about Counseling: How They Relate to Depression, Hopelessness, and Actual-Ideal Self-Discrepancies

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

College Counseling Center Clients' Expectations about Counseling: How They Relate to Depression, Hopelessness, and Actual-Ideal Self-Discrepancies

Article excerpt

Clients' expectations affect many aspects of counseling. This study examined relationships between depression, hopelessness, actual-ideal self-discrepancies (AISDs), and clients' expectations about counseling among 80 college students. Less hopeless participants expected more improvement from and more commitment to counseling. No significant relationships were found between depression or AISDs and expectations among the original sample. Among graduate students, AISDs related to counselor nurturance expectations. Implications for college counselors are discussed.


Clients' expectations of counseling affect how long clients stay in counseling, how satisfied they are with counseling, and how much and how rapidly they improve (Ascher-Svanum, Rochford, Cisco, & Claveaux, 2001; Clinton, 1996; Garland, Aarons, Saltzman, & Kruse, 2000; Hoglend, 1996; Lueger et al., 2001; Lutz, Martinovich, & Howard, 1999; Morrison & Shapiro, 1987; O'Malley et al., 1988). Clearly, efforts to enhance the efficacy of counseling must recognize and take into account the significance of client expectations. Despite the significance of these expectations, the bases of clients' expectations have rarely been studied. Expectations might be mediated by clients' specific types of disorders, such as depression, or by specific constructs related to disorders, such as hopelessness or negative self-view.

Depression and Expectations

This study addressed the relationship between depression and clients' expectations of counseling. It also explored the relationship between clients' expectations and constructs often associated with depressi on, specifically hopelessness and negative self-views, in an effort to determine how depression may be related to expectations. The study addressed how these constructs relate to various expectancy factors, particularly personal commitment to counseling; facilitative conditions of counseling (counselors' genuineness, trust, and acceptance); counselor nurturance; and clients' expectations regarding improvement. Understanding these issues is important, for if it becomes clear why clients have the expectations they hold, counselors will be able to take these expectations into account when working with clients and will be able to serve them better.

Depression has a strong link with cognitive processes (Beck, 1967), and cognitive views related to depression may be reflected in the expectations depressed clients have about counseling. Depression is related to the tendency to have negative expectations (Beck, 1967). The cognitive triad that Beck, Rush, Shaw, and Emery (1979) described as occurring with depression includes holding a negative view of(1) the self, (2) the world, and (3) the future. People will hold negative expectations because of the first and third patterns (Kirsch, 1990). To understand why clients have negative expectations, the phenomena associated with these two patterns must be explored in greater detail.

One pattern that may relate to negative expectations is "holding a negative view of the self." If a person holds a negative view of the self and therefore is not happy with himself or herself, that individual will have a large discrepancy between his or her actual-self and ideal-self (actual-ideal self-discrepancy). For example, a person who has a negative self-view may view herself or himself as unintelligent; if an ideal attribute for the person is intelligence, she or he would have an actual-ideal self-discrepancy for this attribute. The more negative people's self-views, the more likely they will have many discrepancies between their actual selves and their ideal selves. Certain expectations (e.g., expecting a counselor to be nurturant) may relate to the degree to which actual and ideal selves are discrepant. Another pattern associated with negative expectations is "holding a negative view of the future. …

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