Fall 2023 - EDUC 870 G031

Theories of Counselling (3)

Class Number: 7550

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Mon, 4:30–7:20 p.m.

    Oct 10, 2023: Tue, 4:30–7:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Acceptance to the MA/MEd counselling psychology program or permission of instructor. Students must successfully complete a Criminal Record Check.



Students examine analytic, phenomenological, existential, behavioral and cognitive approaches to counselling, and the philosophical and personality theories upon which they are based.


Course Description:

Students participating in this course will explore the role of theory in counselling practice. The goal of the course is to enable participants to formulate and articulate a workable theoretical framework to guide their counselling practice. Towards this goal, learners will: investigate their own values and beliefs about humans, our social worlds, and human change processes; study the major theories of counselling and psychotherapy; examine how theories emerge from, align with, and reflect assumptions about humans, our social worlds, and change. To support the process of selecting and/or integrating commensurable theories,  students will: critically evaluate the evidence base for counselling or psychotherapy in general, and for particular approaches or applications; identify research approaches used to evaluate the effectiveness and efficacy of counselling; examine evidence for the therapeutic alliance as a key common factor; examine approaches to integrating psychotherapeutic approaches; critically reflect on the application of theories to counselling from ethical and social justice perspectives in the context of Canada's stated commitments to the rights of Indigenous people, pluralism and human rights.

Basic familiarity with the major theories of counselling (e.g., psychodynamic, gestalt, person-centred, cognitive-behavioural) is a prerequisite for this course. This course does not provide a historical survey of theoretical schools. Instead, emerging, current and foundational theories are explored through questions: 1) What constitutes healthy human functioning or well-being? (i.e. view of humans and health) 2) What constitutes problematic or maladaptive functioning that can be addressed through counselling? 3)  How do humans change? 4) What role do counselling and counsellors play in producing or influencing change? 5) How does counselling proceed? 6) How is the effectiveness of counselling understood and evaluated?


Student participating in this course will: 
1) Articulate and apply a working theory of counselling. i.e. Use current scholarship to formulate and articulate a working theory of counselling that will guide their counselling practice. Conceptualize the therapeutic change process through their working theory.

2) Demonstrate professionalism and ethics in relationships consistent with a counselling professional-in-training  

1) Articulate and apply a working theory of counselling.

To support this objective, students will:

  1. Engage in close reading of the major psychotherapeutic theories in use today, their philosophical underpinnings, supporting evidence, and psychotherapeutic applications.
  2. Compare, contrast and critique theoretical approaches in relation to their epistemology, ontology, view of humans, change process, supporting evidence, and ethics. 
  3. Engage in critical self-reflexivity to understand how their own social positionality, values, and experience relate to their working theory of counselling;
  4. Critique theories from Indigenous, critical multicultural or social justice perspectives for their application in schools or community counselling settings in Canada.
  5. Critically read and evaluate evidence of efficacy and effectiveness of psychotherapies.
  6. Examine approaches to integration of theory into practice.

Academic competencies will be practiced and developed in the course of articulating a working theory of counselling. Students will:

  1. Read, synthesize, analyse and interpret scholarship related to counselling theories 
  2. Conduct a thorough review of the literature relevant to a theory of their choice.
  3. Demonstrate clear, compelling academic writing that adheres to APA style guidelines. 
  4. Prepare a well-organized and thorough oral presentation of a theory
  5. Guide an experiential or participatory practice exercise based on one of the counselling theories


2) Demonstrate and develop professionalism and ethics in relationships

Students are asked to conduct themselves as professionals- in-training in all of their cohort and classroom interactions. Norms will be discussed early in the term in order to generate shared intentions. To support the goal of professional conduct, students will practice:

  • respect and integrity in relationships
  • self-reflexivity
  • willingness to engage in feedback (offer, receive, respond and integrate)


  • Participation 15%
  • Reflection Paper 10%
  • Critique Paper 20%
  • Major Paper 35%
  • Workshop/Presentation 20%


Active participation in the in person, online synchronous and asynchronous elements of the course is expected.  100% class attendance and punctually is expected. Students are expected to manage their work and extracurricular responsibilities to ensure 100% attendance and punctuality. Report absences due to illness or family emergency to the instructor, in advance when possible.  

Active participation in class discussions, group work, presentations and learning activities posted on Canvas will stimulate inquiry, support reflection and enhance your ability to critically evaluate theories of counselling. To fully participate, come to class with assigned readings completed, prepared to discuss the weekly topic. As part of your preparation expect to spend an additional 90-120 minutes per week engaging with asynchronous components of the class. These include audio recordings, videos and discussion threads.




The texts below provide the foundational material for the course. Additional reading materials, available through SFU library system focus on specific aspects of theories that are relevant for students studying theories at a graduate level.

Wedding, D.&  Corsini, R.J. & (2019). Current Psychotherapies (11th ed.). Belmont CA: Brooks Cole. Print or etext available. ISBN: 1-305-86575-
ISBN: 9781285083711

Journal articles will be assigned and available through the course online space.


Burston, D. & Frie, R. (2006). Psychotherapy as a Human Science. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.
ISBN: 978-0-8207-0378-7

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association.(6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
ISBN: 978-1-4338-0561-5

Journal articles will be assigned and available through the course online space CANVAS or the SFU Library. Several counselling theories texts are also on reserve at SFU library for your reference.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.