Academic journal article TCA Journal

Toward a Comprehensive Theory of Counseling: A Historical Review of Counseling Theory Development in Relation to Definitions of Freewill and Determinism

Academic journal article TCA Journal

Toward a Comprehensive Theory of Counseling: A Historical Review of Counseling Theory Development in Relation to Definitions of Freewill and Determinism

Article excerpt

This review traces the development of counseling theory in relation to the philosophical constructs of freewill and determinism. Problems associated with the construct of freewill are discussed and an analysis of related theoretical trends and convergent paradigms is provided. Results of the review indicate that: (1) no major theory of counseling includes true indeterminate freewill as a component, (2) no theory of counseling adequately addresses the freewill versus determinism problem, and (3) no grand, comprehensive theory of counseling currently exists.

Because a sound theoretical base is essential to the meaningful practice of professional mental health counseling (Bauman & Waldo, 1998; Ginter, 1996, Schwarzer, 1999), efforts to readdress theoretical issues and systemize inferences drawn from the mounting and often conflicting professional data base continue. Prefaced by the assumption that each counseling theory's philosophical position on the age-old freewill versus determinism debate constitutes a primary component of meaningful analyses of that theory's empirical evidence as well as that theory's primary explanation of causal factors of human behavior (Goodman, 1999), the freewill issue continues to be an important area of investigation and an indispensable component in theory development. Despite numerous investigations into freewill-- determinism issues within counseling, the concept of individual freedom or lack of individual freedom in relation to the etiology of human behavior continues to be an unsolved element (Goodman, 1999; Pereboom, 1997; Siegel, 1993).

Recently, a number of researchers have readdressed the freewill/determinism impasse of the past in attempts to synthesize theoretical inferences (Bandura, 1988; Iturrate, 1990; Nelson, 1991; Vetter, 1991; Goodman, 1999). One of the issues under review concerns the meaning of freewill itself (Sappington, 1990; Tinsley, 1993; Vexliard, 1986-87; Werbik, 1991; Williams, 1991; Vollmer, 1995). Traditionally, determinism has been clearly defined as the view "that the will is not free but determined by psychical or physical conditions" (Runes, 1962, p. 78), and conversely, indeterminism has been straightforwardly defined as the theory that "volitional decisions are in certain cases independent of antecedent physiological and psychological causation" (p. 143). Definitions of freewill, however, have been more ambiguous, with freewill being defined in opposition to determinism, in that freewill "ascribes to the human will freedom in one or more of the following senses:

(A) the freedom of indeterminacy . . . the will's alleged independence of antecedent psychological and physiological conditions;

(B) The freedom of alternative choice. . . the ability of the agent to choose among alternative possibilities of action; and

(C) The freedom of self-determinism . . . decision independent of external constraint but in accordance with the inner motives and goals of the actor" (Runes, 1962, p. 112).

It is perhaps worth noting that Runes' definition of indeterminism is synonymous with the definition of Freewill-A (indeterminacy), and that it is indeterminism that he defines as being opposite to determinism. Runes' The Dictionary of Philosophy (1962) further defines a sense of freedom as "the subjective feeling of an agent either at the moment of decision or in retrospect that the decision is free, and that one might have chosen to decide difFerently" (p. 112).

Using Runes' definitions as identifiers, a review of the literature tracing the general trend and direction of psychological and counseling theory development in relation to freewill and determinism is presented. The review focuses on literature within the frameworks of psychoanalysis, behaviorism, humanism, existentialism and phenomenology, and includes a section on constructivism, cognitive-moral developmentalism, chaos theory and self attribution.


The context of this review is unique in its use of definitions drawn from Runes ( 1962) dictionary to organize the material. …

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