Overview of Psychology Theories

Issues pertaining to the relationship between the psychology of an
individual and health have been quite contentious since time immemorial.
Comprehensive research has been done by scholars, with numerous theories
being crafted so as to not only explain this relationship but also guide
the manner in which they may be used to enhance the healing of
individuals. This paper provides a comprehensive overview of varied
theories, as well as their use by therapists and nurses.
Gestalt therapy
Gestalt therapy refers or underlines an experimental type of
psychotherapy that lays emphasis on personal responsibility while
concentrating on the relationship between the therapist and client,
present experiences of an individual, and individual life’s social and
environmental context, as well as the self-regulating modifications that
individuals make thanks to the overall situation.
Key Concepts
Dialogue- this theory underlines the incredible value of relationship
between the client and the therapist, while acknowledging that the
therapist has to engage the client and not manipulate him towards a
certain therapeutic goal. Dialogue encompasses four characteristics
including inclusion, presence, commitment, and living it rather than
talking about it.
The Existential Perspective- this perspective concentrates on the
existence of people in relation to other things or joys as directly
experienced. Gestalt therapy, however, offers a technique through which
an individual would be meaningfully and authentically responsible for
himself, using awareness to chose or organize their own meaningful
Phenomenological perspective- gestalt phenomenological exploration has
its main goal as insight or awareness.
Key Theorists
Fritz Perls- this German philosopher was influenced by Sigmund
Friedlander, South Africa’s Prime Minister Jan Smuts and a semanticist
known as Alfred Korzybski.
Laura Posner Perls Fritz Perls’ student and was influenced by Paul
Tillich and Martin Buber, both of whom were existential theologians.
Appropriate Populations for the Theory
This theory is most appropriate for individuals have the tendency to
deceive themselves or with alienating elements of themselves leading to
Inappropriate Populations for the Theory (Explain why.)
The theory would not be applicable to individuals who are unrestrained
or un-constricted as they already have maximum enjoyment of living.
Therapist’s Role
The therapist is charged with the responsibility of respecting the total
person so as to assist him in becoming clear about the distinction
between “cannot” and “will not”, as well as know the mechanism
through which internal resistance of barriers hinder the work of self
Client’s Role
The client must be willing to support himself in coming up with solution
to his problems.
The client also must direct the larger part of the work and be capable
of incorporating characterological themes, problem solving, relationship
concerns with the physician, as well as the means through which he would
control his own awareness.
Theory Strengths
The theory enables therapists to help clients to rediscover their
natural capabilities for self-regulation, as well as have a fulfilling
and successful contact with other people and the disowned elements of
Theory Limitations
This theory has been criticized for its tendency to be overly
descriptive and not explanatory, which underlines the fact that it is
uninformative and redundant.
The therapist would have excessive control for the session, in which
case he can abuse the responsibility. He or she may incorporate personal
issues in the therapy sessions, which may have a negative impact on the
Key Terms
Phenomenological methods- this technique aims at awareness. The
exploration works in a systematic manner to reduce the impact of bias
via persistent inquiry and observation.
Dialogical relationship- the therapist examines his presence,
establishes some space in which the client enters and becomes included
and engages in the dialogic process without controlling the occurrence,
so as to create a conducive environment for the occurrence of a dialogic
Is this Theory Research-based? Evidence-based?
The gestalt theory may be regarded as research based as it involves the
action of the patient towards the therapies offered by the therapist.
Key Concepts
The theory examines its concepts through the individual and universal
Individual level
Persona- the image (usually unreal) that an individual wants to present
to the outside world.
Shadow-The unconscious or hidden elements of an individual, both good
and bad, which have been repressed by ego or have never been realized.
Universal level
Mandala- map incorporating the life drama and dream
Archetype- collective unconscious’ contents that exercise a pattern
formed earlier for personal behavior.
Key Theorists
Carl Jung
Appropriate Populations for the Theory
The theory is highly applicable to individuals whose mental ailment
emanates from their perception of the world in the present and the
Inappropriate Populations for the Theory (Explain why.)
This theory would be inapplicable to individuals whose psychological
disorder emanates from issues in the past.
Therapist’s Role
The therapist has a duty of exploring the strengths and potential of the
client so as to imbue hope and motivation in the client, especially
considering that the client is likely at the lowest point of his or her
life (Burke, 2006).
The therapist must encourage the client to, at least, relate to him, in
relation to the client’s situation.
Client’s Role
The client has the sole role of exploring the inner being and expressing
his values in a free and open manner so as to allow for their
exploration, definition and elimination if they are harmful to his
Theory Strengths
The theory has borrowed deeply from literature thereby forming
collaborating archetypal images, as well as an explanation of the images
dynamics (Milton, 2003).
Its use of myths to assist the patient break free of the ego introduces
secondary characters that allow them to free themselves from the
formulations and neurosis of these egos (Milton, 2003).
Theory Limitations
The theory does not involve any scientific testing and cannot be
subjected to laboratory testing, in which case they would only remain as
Key Terms
Synchronicity- this term is used to describe causal events that have
considerable meaning when recognized.
Active imagination allows an individual to have a dialogue with the
archetypal and unconscious aspects pertaining to one’s psyche.
Individuation- Jung used this term to describe the process through which
an individual grows to the fullest human potential, which can be most
quickly achieved through dreams.
Is this Theory Research-based? Evidence-based?
This theory is neither research-based, nor evidence based as there is no
way of measuring some of the aspects such as archetypes, chance and
collective unconscious.
Key Concepts
Holism- an individual is seen as a unit or a self-conscious whole
operating as an open system rather than a collection of instincts and
Teleology- this underlines the belief that people move towards certain
self-realization objectives and not only guided by mechanical forces.
Field theory- this concept underlines the fact that an individual should
be studied through his relationships, actions and movements in a social
Lifestyle- the striving of an individual towards belonging and
f=significant may be seen as a pattern which manifests early in his life
and seen as a theme in his lifetime. The theme permeates all elements of
action and perception pertaining to the individual.
The creative self- this concept holds an individual responsible for his
own personality, with the practitioner showing the individual that he
cannot lay the blame on uncontrollable forces or other people.
Private intelligence- this underlines the reasoning that an individual
conceives so as to justify, as well as stimulate a lifestyle that is
Key Theorists
Alfred Adler- he was a Viennese physician credited with coming up with
terms such as “inferiority complex” and “compensation”. He drew
his inspiration from Sigmund Freud
Appropriate Populations for the Theory
This theory is highly applicable to individuals merely suffering from
complexes such as inferiority and superiority complexes.
Inappropriate Populations for the Theory
Individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder would be unlikely to
benefit from this theory as they may not have the capacity to express
their varied values or feelings. This is also the case for nonverbal
individuals (Burke, 2006).
Therapist’s Role
The therapist uncovers the patient’s assumptions and values while
working with the patient as an equal.
He aims at establishing a climate conducive for learning.
Client’s Role
The client must work with the therapist to uncover the predisposing
factors for inferiority thereby allowing for the growth of a strong ego,
which would get rid of neurotic defense mechanisms (Milton, 2003).
Theory Strengths
The theory offered a perspective of human nature emphasizing on
compassion for other people as the key or fundamental force pertaining
to personality (Burke, 2006).
The theory is seen as turning to places that had the highest likelihood
of impacting on an individual including family and school.
Theory Limitations
The theory suffers from simplicity as Adler used a considerably small
proportion of theoretical concepts.
The theory also incorporates little empirical research since Adler was
mainly paying attention to its application rather than its systematic
validation (Milton, 2003).
Is this Theory Research-based? Evidence-based?
The theory is indeed research-based. This stems from the focus of Adler
on the importance of family environment in early childhood to such an
extent that he became the first person to carry out family therapy.
Key Concepts
Defense mechanism- a healthy consciousness state is maintained through
the balancing of the superego, the id and reality by the ego. In this
case, the ego distorts reality so as to protect an individual from any
anxiety and stressors (Milton, 2003).
Personality structure- this is composed of three elements including
superego, ego and id.
The unconscious- this underlines the portion of one’s mind of which an
individual is unaware, and which exposes and individual’s true
thoughts, emotions and feelings.
Key Theorists
Sigmund Freud was the first psychiatrist to come up with the theory.
However, it has undergone numerous refinements thanks to critical
discourse flow (Milton, 2003).
Appropriate Populations for the Theory
This theory would be applicable to individuals who are suffering from
mild forms of neurosis especially stemming from experiences in their
Inappropriate Populations for the Theory (Explain why.)
Therapist’s Role
The therapist examines the values, feelings or experiences on which the
mind of the client is fixated, determine their impact and craft a
technique for shifting the client’s focus to positive feelings.
Client’s Role
Theory Strengths
The theory lays emphasis on the crucial nature of childhood experiences.
This theory comes up with an explanation on defense mechanisms, as well
as why there are variations in individual reactions to similar
In addition, the theory offers a comprehensive explanation pertaining to
the importance of the aggressive, unconscious and sexual drives making
up a large part of the personalities of human beings.
Theory Limitations
This theory makes no consideration about culture or even how it
influences personality
The theory does not incorporate any empirical data, rather it tends to
focus excessively on pathology.
In addition, Sigmund Freud did not include any evidence pertaining to
the influence that environment has on an individual.
Key Terms
Is this Theory Research-based? Evidence-based?
This theory is not research based or evidence based as it does not
incorporate any empirical data pertaining to its applicability or even
the influence of other things such as environment.
Key Concepts
Psychological contact between the therapist and client- it is imperative
that a relationship exists between the therapist and client, where the
perception of every party on the other individual is crucial.
Vulnerability or incongruence of the client- this vulnerability exists
between the awareness and experiences of the client, which is the key
motivation for staying in the relationship.
Unconditional positive regard from the therapist- it is imperative that
the therapist understands the client without approval, judgment,
disapproval and unconditionally so as to facilitate self-regard within
the client as he starts becoming increasingly aware of the experiences
where their perspective pertaining to self-worth was distorted.
Genuineness in the therapist- the therapist facilitates the
client-therapist relationship without acting and by being deeply
involved with themselves as to use their experiences to enhance that
Client perception- this theory underlines the importance of the client
perceiving the empathetic understanding and UPR of the therapist at
least to as small degree.
Empathetic understanding of the therapist-the therapist incorporates an
empathetic comprehension of the internal frame of reference pertaining
to the client, which creates the perception in the client that the
therapist loves them unconditionally.
Key Theorists
This theory was developed by Carl Rogers, who believed that it is
imperative that therapists are understanding, warm and genuine to allow
for the improvement of the client’s condition.
Appropriate Populations for the Theory
This theory is applicable to clients suffering from neurosis of a mild
Inappropriate Populations for the Theory
It would not be applicable to clients suffering from high neurosis or
individuals who are dangerously violent. Research shows that such
individuals would prefer direct advice, otherwise they would become
frustrated thereby hindering healing.
Therapist’s Role
The therapist would incorporate congruence, empathy and unconditional
positive regard would allow the client to freely express his or her
feelings without imparting any feeling that he is under judgment.
The therapist would refrain from changing the way of thought of the
client so as to examine the issues that bear the most importance to
The therapist must create an environment that favors the psychology of
the client so as to enable further progression (Burke, 2006).
Client’s Role
The client has to be open to counseling and trust themselves, carry out
internal evaluation, as well as be willing to pursue continued growth.
Theory Strengths
The therapy has been found as useful in crisis intervention especially
when concentrating on the present, as well as identifying the beliefs
that hinder information integration.
It allows for the creation of a safe environment for the client in which
case it would be extremely useful in the reduction of traumatic
Theory Limitations
The theory does not incorporate any scientific study pertaining to this
method’s effects when compared to a control group that makes these
developments and realization on its own.
In addition, therapists may not appropriately challenge the clients as
they become overly sympathetic.
Therapists also find it difficult to allow clients to make decisions
without directing them.
Key Terms(Write a short definition for each.)
Congruence- state where the experiences of an individual are represented
accurately and clearly by his self-concept.
Humanistic psychology- this refers to a movement that lays emphasis on
choice, value, freedom, self-actualization and growth.
Unconditional positive regard- this underlines a situation where the
therapist accepts the client’s rights to all their feelings and values
devoid of any imposition of conditions (Burke, 2006).
Is this Theory Research-based? Evidence-based? Justify your rationale.)
The theory was not research based
Key Concepts
The theory incorporates varied concepts or propositions.
Self-awareness capacity
Responsibility and freedom
Relationship to other people and striving for an identity.
Seeking for meaning.
Awareness of nonbeing and death.
Anxiety as one of the states of living.
Key Theorists
 Friedrich Nietzsche, Irvin Yalom, Myrtle Heery, Soren Kierkegaard,
Rollo May, Jean-Paul Sartre, James Bugental, Stephen Diamond, Viktor
Frankl, Kirk Schneider
Appropriate Populations for the Theory
This theory is applicable to individuals whose ailments are rooted on
past experiences, as the therapist would assist them in focusing on the
choices lying in the future rather than the ills of the past.
Inappropriate Populations for the Theory (Explain why.)
This theory is found to have little effect on nonverbal clients, or
clients who are in extreme distress. These people would be unable to
express the past experiences that may have a bearing on their
psychosocial ailments.
Therapist’s Role
Therapists implore their clients to acknowledge, as well as explore the
manner in which they may have allowed other people to be making
decisions on their behalf while encouraging them to strive towards
autonomy (Burke, 2006).
Client’s Role
While clients may not have comprehensive awareness about themselves,
they are encouraged to pay more attention to their own-subjected
experiences pertaining to their own world.
Theory Strengths
The theory emphasizes on a therapist-client relationship that is
person-to-person, in which case it reduced the chances that the client
would be subjected to a dehumanizing effect.
The theory offers a view for comprehending guilt and anxiety.
Theory Limitations
This theory does not incorporate a systematic statement of principles,
as well as practices of therapy.
Writers in this theory are known to use abstract principles, vague, as
well as global terms that are usually difficult to grasp.
Key Terms
Existential guilt refers to the concept or aspect of meaninglessness
emanating from a sense of inadequacy or incompleteness.
Normal anxiety- feeling that an individual has when facing an event.
Is this Theory Research-based? Evidence-based?
The theory is evidence-based as it embraces the potential of human
beings while acknowledging the reality pertaining to their limitations.
It also borrows from varied psychotherapies including relational,
humanistic, experiential and psychodynamic (Burke, 2006).
Key Concepts
Ego- an individual’s core individuality
Sense of self- a personality’s central core
Striving for superiority
Basic anxiety
Psychosocial stages
Archetypes, collective unconscious
Key Theorists
Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Eric Erickson, Karen Horney.
Appropriate Populations for the Theory
Young people suffering from obsessive-compulsive reactions, anxiety and
Inappropriate Populations for the Theory
Old people suffering from psychosocial disorders.
Therapist’s Role
The therapist must assist the client to examine his or her multiple
selves, including real self, ideal self and despised self.
The therapist must assist the patient to accept his real self, as well
as solve the conflict between the need for ideal and the real.
Client’s Role
The client must be willing to explore the different selves and his inner
thoughts pertaining to what he or she would want to be.
He must be truthful in exploring the things that lay his or her ego down
so that the therapist can assist in eliminating them.
Theory Strengths
The theory stresses on the importance or crucial nature of developmental
stages in devising treatment plans.
The theory comes as a reflection of human nature and has been
significantly effective on varied disorders including anxiety, phobias
and obsessive-compulsive reactions.
Theory Limitations
The theory seems to use numerous concepts that are difficult to
understand and communicate. The concepts are also difficult to test and
incorporate insufficient evidence pertaining to their existence.
The theory does not seem applicable on older clients.
It tends to overemphasize on unconscious forces and biology.
Key Terms
Self-objects- the representations or reflections of oneself and other
people that are undifferentiated, imperfectly articulated and merged in
varying degrees (Burke, 2006).
Self-presentation- underlines conducting oneself in a socially
appropriate manner.
Is this Theory Research-based? Evidence-based?Justify your rationale.)
This theory is fundamentally based on research and evidence. It has been
widely used in the treatment of psychopathological conditions such as
schizophrenia, with incredible evidence showing that such individuals
have abnormal physiological functioning.
Millon, T. (2003). Handbook of psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Burke, P. J. (2006). Contemporary social psychological theories.
Stanford, Calif: Stanford Social Sciences.