The grounded counselling approach builds the grounded therapy approach outlined by Odis Simmons in 1994. Simmons argued that therapy is driven by preconceptions. From our first contact with new clients, counsellors narrow down the range of issues that they will deal with. An intake form often asks for name, age, address, marital status etc., all of which can lead the counsellor to make assumptions about the issues facing the client rand listen to the story through a particular lens; rather than allowing the clients story to unfold in its own way and at their own pace, a process facilitated by using the grounded theory (GT) research method,

I first read Simmons’ work in the early days of my PhD studies. My supervisor at the time (Prof Ruth Deakin Crick) suggested I use grounded theory as my research method; reading Simmons’ work, and seeing how it mirrored my thoughts about counselling, convinced me that this was a good suggestion. This choice has had a profound impact not only on my PhD research but also on the way I approach counselling and living my life.

Through my studies, and drawing upon several different areas, that supported the CGT assumptions, I built upon Simmons’ grounded therapy approach by drawing upon other theoretical lenses. The main influences were Bernard Lonergan and his approach to critical realism, Erich Fromm and his approach to psychotherapy, and Niklas Luhmann with his understanding of communication.

The process is deceptively simply, and yet quite challenging. Luhmann argued that communication consists of two distinct acts. First we decide what to communicate then we have to decide how to communicate that information. If we reverse that process, we have the beginnings of a conversation; how we hear something affects what we understand by that message.

It is understanding that is central to the grounded counselling approach. By using the grounded theory method, informed by psychology, we are able to reflect on our experiences and understand what is happening in the present, to be able to choose the most effective actions, or develop optimal skills to help us live our lives more fully.

Future Posts on the Grounded Counselling approach

In a separate series of posts I will explain the grounded theory research method in a bit more detail. It has been said that there are as many approaches to grounded theory as there are grounded theorists . While some will argue that their approach is the true method, I cannot make that claim; all I can claim that my approach is grounded (excuse the pun) in what is commonly called Classical Grounded Theory (CGT) as set out by the originator of the method Barney Glaser, but it is my interpretation. If you really want to know the details of my interpretation of CGT then feel free to read my PhD theses; meanwhile I will build a collection of blog posts to help you understand how I work.

History of the grounded counselling approach