Wellness is a way of life oriented toward optimal health and well-being, in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated by the individual to live life more fully within the human and natural community. Ideally, it is the optimum state of health and well-being that each individual is capable of achieving (Myers et al., 2000) p. 252).
Wellness in Counseling
Wellness occurs on a continuum throughout one’s life, problems people have are natural and normal. Counselors assess people in several areas to see what is hindering them from meeting their maximum potential of wellness. Wellness counseling is done through a developmental lens and cultural context, with the end goal of empowering others to resolve their problems independently.
In 2005, the American Counseling Association (ACA) adopted a definition of counseling that stated “Professional counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals” (Kaplan & Gladding, 2011). In addition, Myers (1992) wrote a seminal article that declared the wellness paradigm as the cornerstone of the counseling profession. There are four fundamental philosophies that serve as the foundation of a counselor’s professional identity: (a) wellness orientation, (b) developmental orientation to mental health, (c) intervention and prevention, and (d) empowerment of the individual.
Wellness: Adlerian Lens
The Adlerian approach to counseling is facilitated through Individual Psychology. Individual Psychology uses a non-pathological approach (wellness approach), focusing on people’s strengths and resources. Adler stressed a strength-based holistic approach to viewing people, believing that people strive to contribute socially and have the skills and courage to overcome obstacles to attain their goals. Adlerians strive to provide encouragement in the therapy process, helping clients overcome feelings of discouragement. Counselors seek to understand people’s style of life and any mistaken beliefs that may be influencing how they see themselves, others, and the world. Adlerian counselors foster change by helping clients gain insight of the purpose of their behavior and how they cope, function, and participate within their community, work, and family.
Adler described human behavior as teleological, or purposeful and goal directed. A basic assumption of Individual Psychology is that people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions are all directed toward a perceived goal. This goal is always changing and is influenced by an individual’s perception of his or her experiences from childhood. People begin to form a subjective final goal that guides their movement in life and mastery in life's tasks. These tasks include work, social relationships, intimacy, self-acceptance, and spirituality. Inferiority feelings develop from failure to meet life’s tasks. Striving for significance enables people to be creative to overcome these feelings. All goals have a unique meaning and in striving to reach these goals people develop their unique lifestyle.
The lifestyle is a set of subjective beliefs that creates one’s private logic (private thoughts, beliefs, convictions). These beliefs are created in childhood and influence how people view the world, others, and self. People form a subjective final goal that guides their movement in life. People with healthy lifestyle patterns strive to reach their goals in socially useful and cooperative ways. People who are discouraged often pursue their goals in unhealthy ways.
Adlerian counselors help clients gain insight into the purpose of their behavior and how they cope with life’s tasks. Adler believed that people are creative beings and when life provides difficulties that they cannot handle they become discouraged. The ultimate goal in Adlerian therapy is to foster social interest. By fostering social interest people become prepared to meet the major tasks in life. Social interest gives people the courage and right attitude to meet life’s difficulties and tasks in a useful way. Through encouragement, counselors help clients gain insight of the purpose of their behavior and how they cope and function within life’s tasks and challenges.
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