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Freedom: toward an integration of the counseling profession.

Freedom is presented as an overarching paradigm that may align and bring together the counseling profession's diverse counseling theories and open a doorway to a new generation of counseling techniques. Freedom is defined and discussed in terms of its 4 modalities: freedom from, freedom to, freedom with, and freedom for. The long-standing problem of theoretical integration of counseling and psychotherapy is explored in combination with the phenomenon of therapeutic change in the context of freedom. The new paradigm generates new and possibly more effective counseling techniques by aligning and incorporating freedom with such ideas as agency, self-determination, metacognition, mindfulness, and often unexamined Asian therapeutic techniques from yoga and Buddhism.


At first glance, the counseling profession appears to be quite diverse and divergent. There exist numerous counseling specializations (e.g., career, school/college, mental health, crisis, substance abuse) and professional specializations (e.g., supervision, consultation, research) with multiple influences/foci (e.g., multiculturalism, social justice, spirituality, feminism, systems), and hundreds of theories of counseling. It may be that the field has been hindered by a seemingly haphazard proliferation of specializations, foci, and theories rather than a rigorous analysis, synthesis, and steady extension and expansion of the profession as an integrated whole.

Arnold Lazarus (1990) suggested that the counseling and psychotherapy field was shackled by its training approaches in a way that limits any vision of improvement (see also Dawes, 1994). Lazarus went on to note that counseling and psychotherapy was "still in the dark ages" (p. 356). Following Lazarus, I suggest that a major advance in the profession is overdue. In order to address this matter, I offer a new paradigm that may be able to generate new models, research avenues, approaches, and techniques that enhance the profession.

If there were a way to align and unite the various professional specialties and classical counseling theories into a unified conceptual paradigm, the result may be that the profession as a whole would be more collaborative, integrative, cohesive, interactive, and innovative because of the process of integration. A new paradigm should provide innovative perspectives that open up new approaches in research and new techniques in the practice of a discipline driven by the scientific method (see Kuhn, 1970). In terms of counseling practice in general, it can be argued that there have been no major breakthroughs in the counseling/psychotherapy field since cognitive behavioral counseling and therapy (Meichenbaum, 1977) was introduced more than 30 years ago.

In this article, a new paradigm for integrating the profession is described along with several new counseling approaches that result from it. It is important to note that this paradigm is not a model, and, like any paradigm, it is meant to generate or to be a source of new models. A major goal of this paradigm is to construct a framework that supports and unifies the field and integrates and focuses its myriad aspects while also possibly enhancing, not minimizing, the specializations. I emphasize at the outset that this is a proposed paradigm. It is an emergent conceptual product with the purpose of exploring new concepts and ideas and providing challenging scholarship (Black & Helm, 2010).


This attempt at the integration of counselor education as a profession is not meant to combine or alter the theories and practices of counseling but to align and focus them under a common purpose and framework of freedom (Hanna & Black, 2007). That common purpose, or teleology, can be quite simply stated. The purpose of virtually all counseling endeavors, at some level and to some degree, is to set people free. Perhaps the ultimate goal of counseling--freedom of the client, group, family, community, or culture--has been hidden in plain sight. I define freedom and delineate "the four freedoms" that compose the modalities in which freedom is produced. Finally, I provide examples of how this paradigm may point the way to new techniques that have the potential to enhance the practice of the profession. Figure 1 shows the alignment of the various aspects of the counseling profession under the heading of freedom and therapeutic change. The chart serves as a descriptive overview of the freedom paradigm.

The Nature of Freedom

Freedom has historically been a controversial subject and at times a source of suspicion by behavioral scientists, some who doubted its existence entirely. For example, William James and B. F. Skinner (see Korn, Davis, & Davis, 1991) took radically different positions on the subject. James (1890/1981) praised the notion of freedom, whereas Skinner (1971) dismissed it as illusory. To avoid this controversy, the notion of freedom as used here requires clarification at the outset. First, freedom in the present paradigm should not be confused with the concept of free will. The metaphysical notion of freedom in the sense of free will implies that all human actions and behaviors are freely chosen. That issue is not the focus here. The controversy of free will versus determinism is an antinomy (see Kant, 1787/1929), and neither side of that classic argument can be empirically validated. It is not within the purview of this paradigm to try. Thus, the term is not used here in the sense of free will.


Second, freedom in this paradigm is not to be thought of in the context of liberty or politics. In this paradigm, freedom is only indirectly related to political freedom. In the context of this article, freedom lies squarely in the psychological domain. In this sense, a person can be locked in a 10 by 10 foot prison cell and still be free, as in the example of Nelson Mandela who apparently maintained his psychological freedom behind bars for 27 years during the time he was imprisoned--deprived of liberty--by the apartheid government of South Africa.

Freedom can thus be defined as a psychological state wherein a person is not bound by psychological inhibitions or restrictions, including symptoms such as anxiety, depression, emotional pain, obsessive thoughts, or compulsions. Freedom by definition also involves a sense of mastery that includes the ability to directly affect, alter, soothe, or alleviate unwanted mental, emotional, and behavioral conditions in such a way as to enhance the range of choices available to the individual as well as to amplify and augment positive conditions. Mastery includes the acquisition of skills necessary to negotiate, reduce, or enhance various conditions in the mind, individual, environment, system, or society. In addition, this definition of freedom also necessitates taking responsibility (Sartre, 1953) for said states and conditions without a sense of blame, burden, or duty to act but with a willingness to respond, guide, influence, or manage. Such responsibility and freedom would ultimately include tolerance, understanding, and empathy for others, not inhibited or restricted by bias, prejudice, callousness, or obliviousness.

It is immediately obvious that total freedom is not attainable. It is assumed that no one can attain complete freedom but can achieve it by degrees and through processes of change. Humans seem to be determined by a host of internal (psychological) and external (worldly) influences. This paradigm necessitates greater understanding of the process of becoming free of those influences so that humans are free to choose based on compassion, empathy, and common sense.

Freedom is akin to an enhanced and more fluid conception of agency (see G. S. Howard, 1986; Williams, 1992). In this sense, the proposed paradigm bears more similarity to the concept of freedom and liberation found in some ancient philosophies and psychologies of India (Pereira, 1976), where freedom is rendered in Sanskrit as the attainment of moksha or mukti. It is also similar to, but not the same as, the idea of kaivalya in ancient yoga (Aranya, 1983), where freedom is also thought of as a state to be attained. In Buddhism, nirvana is the primary concept of freedom and is seen as the attainment of a state that marks the end of suffering (Rahula, 1978). Similar to these Asian paradigms that influence our proposed paradigm, my use of the term freedom is not something God-given or intrinsic to all human acts. Freedom is presented as something to be achieved by degrees, remaining ever incomplete.

In no way do I suggest that this paradigm recommends nirvana, kaivalya, or moksha as a goal of counseling practice. However, there are many ideas from Asia that have influenced Western practice and research. For example, there is a high degree of current interest in ancient Buddhist and Hindu ideas, such as mindfulness and meditation in various forms. What is being advanced here is the simple idea that clients are aided by the counselor shifting the focus from the mind-set of a particular technique or theory toward increasing degrees of freedom for the client.

The Four Freedoms

Weiss (1958) outlined four modes of freedom: freedom from, freedom to, freedom with, and freedom for. In the sections that follow, I show how each is aligned with current theories and practices. In each of the four freedoms, corresponding knowledge is necessary to bring them about, maintain, and increase them, with the understanding that these modes are interrelated, interdependent, and interactive.

Freedom From

This freedom refers to symptom relief, such as the alleviation of anxiety, depression, and compulsions, as well as freedom from the yoke of addictions and similar entrapments. Freedom from also refers to helping people find relief or shelter from external situations, such as bullying, battering, racism, homophobia, sexism, and other oppressive influences. Achieving freedom from negative self-talk; disturbing images; harmful beliefs; and serf-defeating, self-harming, or violent behaviors and impulses are internal goals of counseling. A major aspect of freedom from involves metacognitive functions, such as the awareness of the limits and extent of one's own awareness, the ability to disidentify with or step back from a problem or issue, and deciding how to perceive and what to think about a particular problem, belief, feeling, behavior, or relationship.

Freedom To

This freedom involves increasing options and possible choices relevant to given situations as well as a developed ability to make decisions and engage in appropriate actions and behaviors. It includes being able to see options in a given situation or being able to solve problems, adapt to new situations, and develop qualities such as perspicacity and wisdom. This freedom involves the ability to make direct changes in the mind such as changing or replacing beliefs, and it also involves the ability to control, process, alter, or dissolve mental phenomena directly, such as images, memories, emotions, and thoughts (see Hanna, 1991; Puhakka & Hanna, 1988). In addition, freedom to involves and includes the ability to see and act freely without being enslaved by or entrenched in internal or external pressures to give up one's integrity, rationality, or authenticity. The aspect of responsibility, as in the ability to respond and as intrinsic to attaining freedom, lies primarily in this mode.

Freedom With

Being free simply to enhance one's personal benefit ultimately results in problems such as a bifurcated society consisting of the very rich and the very poor. This freedom involves allowing others to be free without engaging competition, privilege, status, or exclusivity. With greater awareness of systems and systemic influences, individuals see the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things (Hanna, Bemak, & Chung, 1999). Thus, human beings are not truly free until all are free. Conversely, when others are denied freedom, our own freedom as human beings is diminished to that degree. Some people are actively deprived of freedom from and freedom to and are in need of liberation (Hanna, Talley, & Guindon, 2000; Ivey, 1995). Freedom with also involves establishing tolerance, empathy, compassion, and the desire for others to be free. Thus, freedom with is not limited to counselors and counseling practices but serves as a goal for clients when appropriate. A deficiency of empathy and tolerance is at the core of a host of problems including personality disorders such as narcissistic and antisocial disorders.

Consistent with the new paradigm, freedom with reveals a hitherto unclassified disorder, the intolerant personality, exemplified by the behaviors and attitudes of those who deprive the freedoms of others (Guindon, Green, & Hanna, 2003). Cautela (1996) posited that fostering empathy in the client should be a goal of counseling and therapy. By augmenting client empathy, the counseling profession can more effectively combat societal racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Freedom For

The last freedom entails providing knowledge and service that results in the freedom of others. Freedom for is intrinsic to the practice of counseling. It is not limited to the actions of counselors, but in this paradigm qualifies as a goal for clients--so that clients can help others to be free. When clients and people in general begin to provide freedom for others, the world can be transformed. Counseling, in this paradigm, becomes a transformative instrument at several levels. Adler (1956, 1979) may have been the first in the psychotherapy field to describe the general idea of freedom for without using such language specifically. His concept of mental health could be described as the possession of a high degree of community feeling, empathy, and social interest by an individual who is also actively engaged in helping other human beings to achieve these same capacities.

Therapeutic Change

A key point of the present paradigm describes how the four freedoms are initiated, established, and maintained. Because the four freedoms are therapeutic and because a function of this paradigm is to orient the benefits of counseling around the four freedoms, it is clear that the processes of therapeutic change can also be seen as processes that bring about freedom (see Figure 1). Therapeutic change is at the core of any type of counseling; without it, counseling loses its meaning (Hanna, 2002).

The notions of development and growth presuppose therapeutic change, and any psychologically positive developmental process is ultimately a positive change process (Hanna, Giordano, Dupuy, & Puhakka, 1995). Simply establishing a therapeutic relationship is a form of change. In this context, the four freedoms are examined though the lens of therapeutic change, specifically the processes of change, stages of change, and precursors of change. These three approaches are quite compatible, mutually reinforcing, and well documented in the literature.

Processes of Change

A variety of processes provide therapeutic benefit to anyone who engages in them (Mahoney, 1991). Many of these change processes are widely known, such as disputing dysfunctional cognitions (Beck, 1976), replacing negative self-talk (Meichenbaum & Cameron, 1974), exposure and reciprocal inhibition (Wolpe, 1958, 1981), learning new behaviors (Spiegler & Guevremont, 2010), and experiential processes for alleviating unpleasant affect (Mahrer, 1986). These processes are commonly associated with a particular theory. Castonguay and Beutier (2006) identified several change processes and organized them according to various principles. Regardless of organization, the change processes are taught in courses and used by counselors to produce therapeutic change in clients. According to the proposed paradigm, the proper use of change processes results in freeing the client, usually through the modalities of increased freedom from (e.g., depression) and freedom to (e.g., more options).

Stages of Change

In the transtheoretical model presented by Prochaska and DiClemente (1982), the stages of change are central. Their research demonstrated that therapeutic change takes place in a series of stages over time. These stages--precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance--have been well documented (Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992; Prochaska, Norcross, & DiClemente, 1994), and from the view of the freedom paradigm, each stage represents a move toward greater freedom, primarily, yet not exclusively, freedom to and freedom from.

Precursors of Change

Certain client change functions have been identified as prerequisites for change (Hanna, 1996, 2002). These change functions are called precursors in that they are necessary for the aforementioned change processes and stages to occur. Rather than the traditional focus on the defense mechanisms that resist change, the precursors could be said to be the offense mechanisms that initiate change. There are seven precursors, and each one is a client variable. Although there may be several more than the seven identified, these seven have been empirically validated (Hanna & Ritchie, 1995) and, in no particular order, are (a) a sense of necessity for change, (b) the willingness to experience anxiety or difficulty, (c) awareness of the problem, (d) confronting the problem, (e) effort toward change, (t) hope for change, and (g) social support for change.

In the precursors model, the focus is on actual change factors rather than theories of counseling, and the model attempts to undercut the theories to focus on change itself. The precursors open the door to freedom from and freedom to, by providing conditions within which freedom manifests. The model includes elements of freedom with by way of the social support and awareness precursors and their role in developing empathy in clients (see Hanna, 2002). The process of establishing and implementing the precursors in clients is a function of providing freedom for the client and clears the path to freedom for the individual. Within the freedom paradigm, the precursors of change are the precursors of freedom. In summary, therapeutic change comes in a variety of forms in terms of principles, functions, factors, and processes. However, as long as those processes, precursors, and stages are therapeutic, they have the potential to set people free. Reframed, therapeutic change is the catalyst of freedom.

Counseling Theories as Various Avenues to Freedom

No thorough discussion of global integration of the counseling profession can ignore the age-old and often discussed problem of the hundreds of theories of counseling. Over the years, there have been many attempts at solving the problem of the nearly 500 theories of counseling (see Norcross, 1990; Omer & London, 1988). The theoretical integration movement exists to solve this problem, and this has been a major topic of conversation for 25 years and even earlier (e.g., Frank, 1961). Twenty years ago, Norcross (1990) counted more than 100 attempts to solve the problem of the hundreds of theories, and by now that number is far larger, adding to the problem even further. Authors have described this dilemma in terms ranging from bewildering (Fowler, 1992), to conflicting (Hanna, 1994), to chaotic (Garfield, 1983; Omer & London, 1988). The problem persists today, and there is an entire journal dedicated to it. A recent meta-analysis of comparative outcome studies on depression provided further evidence that all of the major counseling theories are about equally effective (Cuijpers, van Straten, Andersson, & van Oppen, 2008; see also Smith & Glass, 1977). Goldfried, Pachankis, and Bell (2005) have detailed the history of the psychotherapy integration movement.

The freedom paradigm may be able to integrate and align the widely varying theories by aligning each of the major theories as an approach to freedom, each in its own way. The theories need not be competitive, and they can be collaborative in their goal of freedom. For example, cognitively oriented therapies may seek to free clients through a focus on disputing, changing, and replacing negative beliefs, images, or expectations. Behavior therapy could be seen as accomplishing freedom through behavior change by way of quitting drinking, becoming more assertive, increasing social skills, ending acting out, and the desensitization of phobias. Psychodynamic therapies seek to resolve inner conflicts and emphasize working through transference and may set people free from past interaction patterns and experiences. Experiential therapies focus on the expression and release of affect through a variety of techniques ranging from exaggeration to the empty chair, virtually all of which are designed to free people from the burden of negative, unwanted feelings. Interpersonally oriented therapies can be seen as freeing clients through developing more positive relationships.

Systems approaches, as in the various schools of family counseling, seek to free individuals by bringing the system to a state of being functional. This could be seen as freeing the individual members of the system from its negative influences so that they can act without being bound by the limitations it imposed. It should be added that the therapeutic relationship is now widely accepted as a crucial element of each theory. The point here is that all of the major theories have their place, and each one works in its own way to help a client achieve some degree of freedom.

From an overarching perspective, it might be said that the hundreds of theories have developed and accumulated because there are so many means and approaches to helping people to change. In addition, there is a preponderance of ways to explain how to accomplish the helping, many of which contradict each other. The problem is that all of the major theories are approximately equally effective (Cuijpers et al., 2008; Lambert, 1992; Norcross, 2005). A good number of the theories contain assumptions and metaphysical elements that are adhered to by their followers as articles of faith that cannot and probably never will be validated empirically. Examples of such metaphysical beliefs are the self-actualizing tendency, the collective unconscious, the id, and the very notion of the self, which no one has ever really delineated and may not exist at all (see Buddhadasa, 1989; Hanna, 1994; Tjeltveit, 1989). The point is that the application of the various major theories leads to change, but their conceptual content is so muddled and confused that scholars have attempted solve this problem without success for nearly fifty years (Anchin, 2008).

Scholarly Attempts at Integrating the Theories

Previous attempts at organizing the hundreds of theories were largely concerned with combining or integrating the theories into a workable, all-inclusive framework. Norcross (2005; see also Grencavage & Norcross, 1990) categorized the various attempts at solving the problem of the hundreds of widely varying counseling theories into four different routes to integration. These are eclecticism, theoretical integration, common factors, and assimilative integration. In the case of eclecticism, the general assumption is that theories are not as important as techniques, and counseling should focus on preserving and cataloging techniques as the heart of counseling. The multimodal therapy of Arnold Lazarus (1989) is a sophisticated, systematic example of eclecticism. In theoretical integration, there is an attempt to combine the various theories into a greater, grand theory that incorporates the strengths of each. This is sometimes referred to somewhat negatively as "theory smushing" (Norcross, 2005, p. 8). Unfortunately, this route has hundreds of possible combined theories and does not represent a viable solution.

The common factors approach was introduced by Jerome Frank (1961) and subsequently updated (Frank & Frank, 1993). Frank and a number of adherents sought to isolate the various factors operative across the major schools of counseling and combine them into a comprehensive approach unto itself. This route has a considerable number of adherents (e.g., Duncan, Miller, Wampold, & Hubble, 2010; Hubble, Duncan, & Miller, 1999). Finally, the assimilative integration route begins with a major theory and then incorporates or appends various elements of other theories in an attempt to reach a satisfactory approach (Messer, 1992; Norcross, 2005). Although all four of these routes have made contributions to the literature, none of these have truly integrated the major theories under one comprehensive framework.

In all four of these routes outlined by Norcross (2005), something gets lost or omitted through the process of integration. However, in the freedom paradigm, nothing is lost in the process, and there may be much to be gained. It seems that professionals need to learn all of the major theories in order to become competent in helping others to achieve freedom for the client in the manner most suited to the client's needs. This includes the three major modes of counseling delivery in the form of individual, group, and family contexts and settings. In the freedom paradigm, the various theories and techniques used need not be oriented around the preferences or beliefs of the counselor but determined by the needs of the client (Hanna, 1994). Those needs, ultimately, may translate well because the need to be set free and the therapy chosen is the best match for meeting those needs.

The proposed freedom paradigm does not combine the theories, as has been largely done in the past, but rather aligns them. The result is that each major theory has its place in tradition and retains its power and focus in the present. This approach to the integration of theories is teleological in terms of aligning and reframing the purpose of each of the major theories toward the general goal of attaining some degree of one or more of the four freedoms.

Freedom in Professional Practices and Specializations

As can be seen in Figure i, there is a broad range of specializations and varieties of practice in the counseling profession that function along with the various theories. In the paragraphs that follow, I describe and reframe how each specialization contributes to freedom in its own unique fashion. Each of these practices enhance one or more of the four freedoms, although their influence appears to be indirect in that they are not designed to directly engage the change processes, stages, and precursors noted earlier in this article. Because the present paradigm is teleological in nature, the purpose of the specializations is the focus of the discussion. Testing and assessment are not addressed in this article because these are not direct counseling activities with the goal of therapeutic change.

Career Counseling

The purpose of career counseling is to use counseling skills and methods to help another or others in the selection of, adjustment to, and advancement in the occupations that make up careers (Duane Brown, 2007). Career counseling focuses on making effective decisions related to work and addresses the nature and interaction of a career role with other life roles (Amundson, Harris-Bowlsbey, & Niles, 2005) across the life span. From the viewpoint of the four freedoms, the primary benefit of career counseling seems to be along the lines of freedom to in that having a career allows one a role in society and potentially enhances the ability to make choices and solve problems. This involves not only simple decision making but the enhancement of freedom through consciousness of self, society, and personal growth (Miller-Tiedeman, 1988). However, freedom from and freedom with may also potentially be involved in this specialization because one can be freed from stereotypic and limiting gender role assignments and attain the tolerance of others, which would support one's free pursuit of careers outside of traditional limitations related to gender, race, or sexual orientation.

Crisis Counseling

In the case of crisis counseling, it has long been known that crisis counseling is a unique form of counseling that does not have the same goals as, for example, the major counseling theories. The purpose of crisis counseling is help a person to recover from a disorganized state, referred to as disequilibrium, in which a person, due to crisis, severe stress, or trauma, has suffered a loss of coping skill(s) (Janosik, 1986). This vulnerable state is addressed in crisis counseling by seeking to restore equilibrium and return the client to his or her former degree of coping that was lost due to the shock or impact of the crisis or trauma (Jackson-Cherry & Erford, 2010). From the freedom perspective, crisis counseling seeks to help the person regain freedom lost, primarily in terms of freedom from and freedom to, by restoring functionality and the capacity to form and pursue options.

School Counseling

The purpose of school counseling is to assist school children and youth with a range of issues, including their academic, career, social, and personal development (American School Counseling Association, 2009), through culturally relevant individual and group counseling, large group guidance, consultation, and collaboration (Kampwirth, 2003; Sciarra, 2003). An intimate knowledge of the school system is integral to the effective practice of school counseling. School counselors also serve as advocates for students and their families primarily with the goal of academic success. This form of counseling practice appears to be dedicated to freedom to in the sense of helping students and their parents make choices and organize various aspects of their lives so that they can achieve the academic success that matches their potential (see Sciarra, 2003). However, freedom from is also involved as school counselors also work to remove obstacles and help students solve problems that are keeping them from achieving academic success (e.g., closing the gap).

With regard to adolescents specifically, freedom/autonomy is a developmental issue of considerable importance (Church, 1994; Hanna, Hanna, & Keys, 1999), and teaching adolescents responsibility through various means is a crucial step toward achieving it (Hanna & Hunt, 1999). From a more global perspective, education also enhances freedom. For example, the current trend toward transformative learning (O'Sullivan, 1999) can be seen as taking into account all of the four freedoms, because it also takes into account freedom with in the form of social justice and freedom for in the sense of its global view of transformation for all.


Consultation is an established aspect of the counseling profession that is typically considered separately from counseling per se, although it is an intimate aspect of school counseling (Kampwirth, 2003) and counselor supervision. Gladding (2004) noted that the purpose of consultation is to initiate positive change in individuals, groups, social units, or systems. However, consultation differs from counseling largely in that the consultant serves as a catalyst of change directly by helping the helpers and indirectly by helping the clients of the helpers through them. Nonetheless, consultants help clients become more effective, independent, and resourceful, usually in their work setting. The consultant, as a catalyst, can bring about freedom to by empowering clients with new skills. They can achieve a degree of freedom from by helping to remove obstacles and freedom with in the sense of helping individuals within systems to better tolerate each other as well as the people in surrounding systems.

Alcohol and Drug Counseling

In alcohol and drug counseling, the dominant approach to counseling or treatment is to help the client move toward abstinence from the use of psychoactive substances (Doweiko, 2006; Inaba & Cohen, 2007). There are widely varying approaches to treatment including cognitive-behavorial counseling, motivational interviewing (Hester & Miller, 1989), and various 12-step programs (Perkinson, 2007; Stevens & Smith, 2001). Counseling, when successful, can bring about freedom to in the sense of freeing the person to make positive choices; avoid the use of alcohol and drugs; find alternative friends, environments, and activities; and establish new patterns and styles of living that no longer include using. This could lead to a limited state of being free from the previously uncontrollable urge to abuse substances, as well as being freed to some degree from inclinations toward negative behaviors associated with drug and alcohol addiction. Gambling addition can be similarly viewed (see Ciarrocchi, 2002).


It is important to understand that supervision is an intervention unto itself and combines formal theory and research knowledge with clinical skills and experience (Bernard & Goodyear, 2008). In this regard, counseling supervision has the remarkable advantage of helping supervisees and clients to become freer. Supervisees can gain the freedom to understand and take responsibility for their impact on another (the client) while gaining new skills to support the delivery of freeing services to others. Counselors and their supervisors can explore new approaches, techniques, and insights that aid clients as they seek greater degrees of freedom from inhibitions, counter-transference, faulty assumptions, ineffective behaviors, and errant thought processes. Supervisors can help free counselors from such limitations that have the potential to limit the change process with the client, family, or group. In addition, supervisors can help supervisees achieve a greater degree of freedom with in the sense of enhanced knowledge of themselves as learners, multicultural issues, social justice, feminist issues, and gay or lesbian issues.

Multicultural Counseling

The thrust of the many multicultural counseling approaches in the profession has been largely along the lines of establishing and building competencies in multicultural counseling settings (Roysircar, Sandhu, & Bibbins, 2003). Much of this involves helping students and practicing counselors to become aware not only of racism but of their own cultural biases, White privilege, and how the dominant culture is seen by subordinate cultures (Sandhu & Looby, 2003). Although a general definition of multicultural counseling is somewhat controversial, its purpose is fairly clear and could be said to be achieving a high degree of effectiveness in helping each individual client or family from a culture different than that of the counselor's (Lee, 2007). This includes showing the highest degree of empathy and respect for each client's values, beliefs, background, identity, and especially for both differences with and similarities to the culture of the counselor (Baruth & Manning, 2007; Lee, 2007). Of course, multicultural counseling also necessitates culture-centered knowledge of various cultures and how each conceives, processes, and communicates respective mental, emotional, and systemic problems (Baruth & Manning, 2007; Sue & Sue, 1999).

From the perspective of the four freedoms, multicultural counseling ideally allows a client or family from a diverse culture to receive the full benefit of counseling without racial or cultural bias impeding the change process. Properly done, multicultural counseling can provide freedom from and freedom to for clients in the same sense as many of the counseling theories do but with the added benefit of having clients receive these services by a counselor adequately trained to understand freedom with as well. In this way, a multicultural client, or client with a diverse background, can achieve a measure of freedom not by adjusting or adapting to a larger culture but by being able to adequately perceive it and become liberated from it (Hanna et al., 2000). Stated slightly differently, clients from oppressed or nondominant groups can achieve the freedom to recognize that although they are in a larger culture, they are not necessarily of it and need not be psychologically bound to it or by it, unless they so choose.

Social Justice

Social justice is concerned with and dedicated to the idea that each person in society should receive his or her due and that both the benefits of society as well as the burdens should be fairly distributed (Beauchamp, 1976). Social justice models analyze who benefits and who is harmed by societal conditions, such as oppression, exploitation, discrimination, and inequality in a variety of contexts (Nancy, 2001). Advocates for social justice seek to expose social exploitations and injustices (e.g., Dee Brown, 1970; Daly, 1978, 1992; hooks, 1995) and also empower those who have been harmed by these conditions. Social justice is accomplished by promoting and encouraging such actions as sharing power, giving voice, engaging in consciousness raising, building on strengths, and giving clients tools for effecting social change (Goodman et al., 2004).

In addition, Constantine, Hage, Kindaichi, and Bryant (2007) recommended that the training of counselors includes becoming knowledgeable about oppression in its various forms, engaging in continuous self-reflection and awareness of privilege and power, questioning therapeutic interventions that ignore social justice, implementing interventions and programs that address the needs of the oppressed, and collaborating with community organizations to provide culturally relevant and empowering interventions. The context in which social justice operates is primarily in regard to oppression in its various manifestations as exploitation, discrimination, and psychological or physical acts of aggression. These contexts of oppression include but are not limited to sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, and culture. Feminist counseling is a well-established example of counteracting oppression (Good, Gilbert, & Scher, 1990). Sadly, blindness to such oppression in certain quarters of the mental health profession has led to overlooking the psychopathological aspects of perpetrators. It has been suggested that perpetrators of oppression might warrant a diagnosis of intolerant personality disorder (Guindon et al., 2003) not found in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). In essence, what these perpetrators are doing is actively restricting the freedom of others by various means.

Ivey (1995) introduced the idea of liberation in social justice and multicultural counseling primarily from the perspective of Paulo Freire (1970) and his views on oppression in education. The freedom paradigm encompasses liberation and education and clarifies them in terms of the four freedoms. From the perspective of freedom, social justice is obviously akin to liberation in the sense of freedom from, but it is also much more. Social justice provides freedom from in the sense of helping clients and counselors become aware of the dynamics of oppression (see Hanna et al., 2000). In doing so, clients are freed to cut the cognitive roots of their psychological bonds to oppressors so that the oppressed can be free to act in an empowered and focused manner (Hanna et al., 2000). Social justice is clearly in the realm of freedom with in the sense of building empathy, compassion, and the understanding that people cannot become truly free without being dedicated to the freedom of all (Hanna & Black, 2007). Finally, social justice provides freedom for in the sense of individuals seeking advocacy for themselves and empowering themselves with the tools to set each other free (Goodman et al., 2004).

Spirituality and Religious Counseling

Spirituality and religion have only recently begun to receive their due in counseling and psychotherapy research and are highly important in reaching and helping many clients (Hanna & Green, 2004). It is not surprising that the four freedoms are very much in evidence here as well. It is important to emphasize the widely repeated and now widely accepted statement that spirituality is not religion (Kurtz & Ketcham, 1992), although both seek freedom through largely metaphysical frameworks and practices. An original move toward spirituality, apart from but not in opposition to religion, may have been by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA, 1976) in the 1930s, although the parallels between AA and counseling are numerous in any case and there is much overlap between the three in terms of purpose (Hanna, 1992). Thus the purpose of this form of counseling would, from the perspective of the four freedoms, be understanding that counseling and spirituality are aligned in the sense of freeing a person to more deeply experience a state of fulfillment and gratification through a higher power or pursuit of other metaphysical domains, such as the soul, nonmaterial beings, realms beyond the physical universe, and so forth.

Among theologians, the term soteriology is generally applied in a religious context as the study of liberation and/or salvation (Largen, 2009). Liberation and salvation are terms that can be used interchangeably and are conceived differently in the different religions, from Christianity, Islam, and Judaism to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism (Bharati, 1974). These same terms are also intimately related to freedom. Approaches in the various religions vary greatly as to how liberation takes place, but the general purpose is ultimately to attain a state whereby one achieves peace and safety with or within the overarching presence of a higher power, freedom from suffering, and/ or eternal rescue (salvation) in some form (Largen, 2009). Spirituality also has many of the same goals and also varies widely in conception and practice. Transpersonal counseling and therapy in its various aspects (see Walsh & Vaughan, 1993), for example, seeks freedom in a variety of approaches, including freedom from the ego itself.

In terms of freedom, spirituality and religion offer freedom from in the sense of peace or security from the heartaches and suffering in the world, generally through achieving closeness with a higher power or Ultimate Being. Simultaneously, freedom to is attained by acting in accordance with the laws of a higher power, deity, nature, or hidden essence of the world itself (Morgan, 2009). In terms of freedom with and freedom for, it is impossible to form general conclusions because some religious and spiritual pursuits are highly oriented around such freedoms, whereas others frankly oppose them (Hanna et al., 2000).

The Need for Deeper Philosophical Reflection

To arrive at a convergence and integration of the wide-ranging diversity of specialties, theories, perspectives, and techniques in the counseling profession, it may be necessary to move deeper into the assumptions and presuppositions of the field as a whole. Miller (1983) suggested that such philosophical analysis become part of the training of psychotherapists to avoid petty dogmatism, shallow thinking, and the dangers of "terminal philosophical ambivalence" (p. 210). Since the time of William James (1890/1981), several authors have pointed out a hesitance in psychology to examine the extraordinary layers of meaning intrinsic to and underlying the profound psychological concepts of our field, all the while avoiding philosophy, the one discipline that addresses such issues. Bevan (1991), G. S. Howard (1986), and

Koch (1981) have called for a return to philosophical analysis to better capture and contain psychological concepts that form the basis of our field. It seems that their call has gone largely unheeded, even though the need has never been greater, and that there is a negative consequence that results from this curious type of avoidance. Koch (1992) noted that a pervasive deficiency within psychological concepts exists because of a silent general permissiveness of triviality that results in the lack of conceptual depth. For example, self-esteem is a widely used household term that is ultimately unclear in that no one really knows what a self is, or if there is such a thing at all. Koch (1992) illustrated how the now widely accepted process of operationalization tends to trivialize our thinking by oversimplifying extremely complex and ambiguous concepts in the name of research. It seems that this form of thinking has now become pandemic in our field and may have played a role in the lack of advances in the development of major theories.

For example, an examination of various theories textbooks over the past 30 years reveals that essentially the same theories have been taught for decades. Even though some important additions, such as multicultural, feminist, and systems theories, have been added to textbooks, each of these theories has also been around for decades. There has been no paradigm being taught that can encompass, align, focus, and bring together all of these diverse theories into a collaborative harmony. The result is that the field still has the aforementioned theoretical clutter of conflicting theories (Hanna, 2002).

It is quite possible that the problem can be addressed through resurrecting the discipline of rigorous theory building in order to develop new and more powerful techniques. As Kurt Lewin (1951) said in an oft quoted line, "There is nothing so practical as a good theory" (p. 169). It is now time to explore a line of inquiry and counseling application based on the freedom paradigm.

Agency, Self-Determination, and Freedom

A new paradigm generates new conceptualizations and reframes the old. The resulting perspective sheds light in areas long concealed or overlooked, or in this case, hidden in plain sight. A new paradigm must also generate new techniques, or its practical value is always in doubt. A difficult question must be posed in proposing a paradigm such as this. For example, in speaking of freedom, what is it, exactly, that is freed or attains freedom? The easy answer is the self, but any sort of in-depth examination of this question reveals a great amount of obscurity and vagueness just below the surface of that simple answer. Thus, it may be helpful to clarify and further explore what it is that gets set free and to suggest one of many possible answers.

Whatever it is, exactly, that is set free has been variously referred to in the literature in terms such as the self, soul, ego, personality, consciousness, metacontrol, personhood, executive function, and others. However it is characterized, it seems to involve an assumption of metacognitive processes as well. In each of these conceptions, a considerable amount of obscurity is present that makes precise definition nearly impossible and circular definitions abound. As a possible solution, the concept of agency may be most efficient. It is a general term that encompasses many of the aspects of the aforementioned terms (see G. S. Howard, 1986; Williams, 1992) and also orients, subsumes, and expands on the idea of multiple conceptions of the self (Little, Hawley, Henrich, & Marsland, 2002). Agency also has the advantage of having garnered a general acceptance in the field and-although the question in the previous paragraph remains without a completely satisfactory answer--it may be more versatile and fluid than the traditional conceptions of the self.

In terms of freedom, the conception of agency includes the well-researched idea of self-determination and its many therapeutic aspects (Deci & Ryan, 2002). It is related to the idea of a person having a functional degree of control (Glasser, 1984) in life. The relationship between freedom from/freedom to and self-determination are obvious and require little elaboration. From the viewpoint of freedom with and freedom for, entire systems or groups can be viewed as requiring self-determination to be functional and ideally can provide increasing degrees of freedom for each of the individual members. When driven by empathy for the needs and desires of its members, systems can contribute to the greater freedom for of all concerned, which is multiplied through each of the systems embedded within larger systems. Social justice and counselor supervision seem to fit and operate quite comfortably in this kind of conception. Thus, a possible answer to what gets set free is the agency of the person and the resultant increase in self-determination with regard to all of the four freedoms--for individuals, groups, families, and entire systems.

Freedom, Asian Psychologies, and New Counseling Approaches

Within the context of agency and self-determination, a new approach to counseling emerges through a largely unexplored aspect of self-determination and a different view of mind itself. It is based on ancient Asian practices that are embedded within a freedom paradigm. This approach aims at helping clients become more self-determined in an inner sense, within the context of their own minds through the use of metacognitive processes (Hanna, 2002; see also Dimaggio, Semerari, Carcione, Nicolo, & Procacci, 2007; Hanna et al., 1995; Slife, 1987; Slife & Weaver, 1992). In other words, the notions of self-determination and agency can be exploited to allow people to freely determine their own thoughts, beliefs, images, and feelings without being enslaved by obsessions, compulsions, fears, anxieties, inhibitions, and so forth. This approach is based on the psychological practice of yoga along with Husserl's (1913/1931, 1936/1970) phenomenological awareness methods.

Husserl's phenomenological approach to studying the inner workings of the mind has extraordinary parallels with the classic yogic meditation method of samyama (Puligandla, 1970; Sinari, 1965). The yogic method is described in Patanjali's classic, 1,800-year-old treatise of yoga psychology (see Aranya, 1983; Feuerstein, 1980, 1989). The key in both of these disciplines is that consciousness, or pure awareness, is the primary core of a human being. It is differentiated from mind and mental processes as being of two separate orders of existence. In fact, Patanjali clearly states that one of the purposes of yoga is to attain control of mental processes (Ghosh, 1979) in order to enhance and free pure awareness. This is in accordance with some research findings that therapeutic change is associated with a set of metacognitive processes (Dimaggio et al., 2007) variously referred to as "psychological acts" or the exercise of the will (see Hanna et al., 1995).

Thus consciousness, or mindful awareness, is different from cognitive processes such as thoughts, images, thinking, and memories, as well as emotions. The idea here is that consciousness is an observing function unlike mental processes and mental "objects," such as thoughts and images that are observed but do not themselves do any observing. There is a clear parallel here with Buddhist mindfulness meditation (Rahula, 1978) that has now become quite influential in the counseling field. Classical yoga psychology has pointed out that the loss of freedom occurs when consciousness confuses its nature by identifying with the thoughts, images, and roles it creates and then finds itself immersed, if not lost, within and almost powerless over its own creations. Bondage, or the lack of freedom, results from this primary confusion (Aranya, 1983; Deshpande, 1978), and the purpose of Yoga is to set consciousness free.

There is a parallel in Adler's (1956) notion of the self, wherein he describes the self as being anything with which one identifies. In yoga, a primary and fundamental cause of suffering and ignorance results from failing to differentiate consciousness from mental phenomena. In fact, freedom in yoga, or kaivalya, is a process of disidentification (Nanda, 1978) of consciousness from mental phenomena; the same is true in Buddhism, although it is stated differently (see Silananda, 1990).

Whether consciousness is or is not ultimately part of the mind is a metaphysical issue well beyond the scope of this article. However, the pragmatic value (see James, 1907) for counseling and psychotherapy lies in the fact that a person can be freed to directly change mental contents and conditions in the mind rather easily once consciousness is freed through disidentification from the mind. This is a form of empowerment of considerable proportions but is quite traditional in Asian practices. A freedom paradigm brings this empowerment out of obscurity and into focus for Western practice.

Potential Contributions to Counseling practice

What all of this means is that people can be taught to directly remove or "undo" disturbing thoughts, images, thinking patterns, fears, depression, and anxieties. This results from the integrated application of self-determinism, agency, yogic methods, and phenomenology. Consciousness can directly change, intensify, diminish, or otherwise control dysfunctional cognitions, images, feelings, memories, and expectations simply through the metacognitive exercise of will. The idea of the will was abandoned in psychology decades ago largely because of the influence of behaviorism (Gilbert, 1970), and it may have been an instance of the proverbial "throwing out the baby with the bath water."

Counseling techniques routinely engage the will to some degree in the case of altering and changing dysfunctional cognitions, for example; however, perhaps it is time to strengthen the will. In yoga, mind and mental phenomena are seen as a kind of material, even in the case of so-called ethereal thoughts, images, and feelings. Consciousness, on the other hand, is not a form of material but is seen as pure awareness. It has the capacity to directly influence the inner world. Cognitive science has long shown empirically that people can directly manipulate mental images (Shepard & Metzler, 1971). Perhaps it is time to put this idea to work in contemporary practice.

As an example of the application of the freedom paradigm, Puhakka and Hanna (1988; see also Hanna, 1991), using a yogic phenomenological application along the lines of what is described earlier, applied what they called an "object-oriented" as opposed to the conventional "meaning-oriented" framework for counseling. They outlined and described a technique that involved having clients use various methods to directly dissolve, or at least diminish, psychological issues in the form of painful memories, distorted images, disturbing feelings, and harmful beliefs using a variety of direct mental manipulations. The application of this technique required no education on the part of clients to be useful.

In Sanskrit, this process of dissolving or undoing mental phenomena is referred to as "pratiprasava" (Nanda, 1978). There does not seem to be an equivalent concept in English, although the closest might be something along the lines of "uncreating." The point here is that even though a person may have once formed painful images, memories, beliefs, or what have you, we counselors are not taught that we can directly unmake, unform, uncreate, undo, or deconstruct them psychologically. The yogic idea is that if something can be made in the mind, it can also be unmade. Psychological freedom and profound self-determination may lie in this direction. Techniques that make use of the concept of pratiprasava, such as those previously outlined, have been successfully demonstrated with hundreds of participants in conferences and professional presentations (e.g., Hanna, 2009) and have been documented in many clinical case studies. It seems to work with a fair number of children and adolescents as well. However, like many established counseling techniques, these have been found to be unsuccessful and ineffective with some clients and beg for formal empirical research.


This article is a call for new ways of thinking. Kuhn (1970), in his now classic work, stated that when a new paradigm is introduced, it becomes apparent that it was present and inherent in the knowledge base of a particular field all along but was not recognized as such due to the dominance of thinking along the patterns of the previous paradigm. It is apparent that freedom as the underlying goal of counseling and psychotherapy has long been practiced, albeit only partially, even while hidden in plain sight. Now that it is visible, new avenues for research and practice may emerge along the lines of developing agency and self-determination, and systems as well. Many techniques that directly affect the mind and its contents can be added to the mostly indirect processes that currently dominate practice. From the perspective of multiculturalism and social justice, the freedom paradigm also reveals that in previous paradigms and counseling theories, there may have been an imbalance, an overemphasis, on freedom to and freedom from. This paradigm may restore some balance by giving proper attention to the modulating and complementing influences of freedom with and freedom for. Globally, this may have positive effects toward changing a self-centered and entitled society.

The viewpoints offered here are presented as an evolving paradigm that is just beginning to be explored. The counseling profession in general and counselor educators in particular will ultimately determine its value. A quote attributed to Albert Einstein might be appropriate for understanding how easily we become trapped by our own conceptions: "Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things easily achieve such authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens" (D. A. Howard, 2005, p. 35). Perhaps it is time for a reordering, in a way that can transcend conceptual shackles (Lazarus, 1990) that inhibit the development of new ideas and major new approaches and techniques. I welcome any criticisms, suggestions, or improvements that colleagues might offer.

Received 09/30/10

Revised 03/10/11

Accepted 06/15/11


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Fred J. Hanna, Department of Counselor Education and Supervision, University of Northern Colorado. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Fred J. Hanna, Department of Counselor Education and Supervision, University of Northern Colorado. Greeley, McKee Hall 288, Campus Box 131. Greeley. CO 806390001 (e-mail:
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Title Annotation:Professional Dialogue
Author:Hanna, Fred J.
Publication:Counselor Education and Supervision
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2011
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