Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)



Committee Chair(s)

David R. Stone


David R. Stone


Keith Checketts


Glendon Casto


The literature contains much about learning. But, what do we mean by learning?

Learning is the process by which an activity originates or is changed through reacting to an encountered situation, provided that the characteristics of the change in activity cannot be explained on the basis of native response tendencies, maturation, or temporary states of the organism (e.g., fatigue, drugs, etc.). (Hilgard, 1966, p. 2)

Effective counseling requires that the client learn. Even though client learning is essential to effective counseling, relatively little has been done to relate learning theory to the counseling process. Significant work in this direction has been done by Shoben (1949), Dollard and Miller (1950), Pepinsky and Pepinsky (1954), and Krumboltz (1966). The work of Krumboltz (1966) is the most revolutionary because it suggests new approaches to counseling based on learning theory and research, while the others mentioned are largely explanations of existing techniques in terms of learning theory.

It is recognized that the lack of clear specified counseling techniques is due to a lack of application of learning theory to counseling (Ford and Urban, 1963). The need for this work to be done is urgent.

Most of the counseling and psychotherapeutic procedures currently in use have virtually no research base for their existence. The research that does exist generally shows the techniques to have no measurable effect. The few effects that are shown are usually trivial. Of course there are many difficulties with performing adequate experimental studies with complex human behavior, but it is quite clear that we do not already know the most effective ways of helping people.

For example, Gonyea's study (1964), which won a research award from the American Personnel and Guidance Association in 1965, showed that there was a negative relationship between the extent to which counselors developed the "ideal therapeutic relationship" and the degree to which their clients reported themselves to be improved. The correlation was a -.14, not significantly different from zero, but in the direction that those counselors who were most "ideal" produced the least improvement in clients. Certainly evidence such as this should cause us to hesitate before preaching that we already know what the ideal therapeutic relationship is. (Krumboltz, 1966, pp. 20-21).


The purpose of this paper is to provide a means for increasing the effectiveness of counseling. This will be done by providing a model for the counseling process that is based on learning theory concepts and principles . This objective will be accomplished in the following manner: (1) Relevant concepts and principles in some basic learning theories will be briefly reviewed; (2) A counseling procedure based on learning theory will be presented, including a discussion of techniques; (3) A method for evaluating counseling techniques will be suggested.