Counseling students are often required to write essays and research papers to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a particular counseling issue.
If you want to write a good research paper on counseling, there are two essential things to remember:
You might say, "Duh! Isn't it obvious?" But you have no idea how many times students answer the easier question instead of the question that was asked of them. For example, for a paper with a research question, "How effective is object relations approach in treating social anxiety?" many students write about treating anxiety (not even social anxiety) with cognitive behavior therapy. Why? Just because there is much more information on treating anxiety with CBT than with object relations therapy. You may spend a lot of time explaining the application of CBT to anxiety problems, but such a paper is completely and utterly useless because it does not answer the research question. Which brings us to the second essential point of writing good counseling papers:
So you've got this paper on the effectiveness of object relations model for treating social anxiety, but you do not know anything about object relations theory or even social anxiety. So, find the materials, research, read, and understand your topic to the best possible degree to be able to answer your research question. Even if you cannot find any controlled studies on the effectiveness of object relations theory for social anxiety, you can still answer your research question. If you understand what you write about, at least you can speculate or construct an argument regarding your problem. You can demonstrate the application of critical thinking and analysis to hypothesize based on limited available information.
Quality standards of research papers on counseling and psychotherapy
And while we are talking about components of high-quality counseling papers, it should be noted that irrespective of the specific topic, every counseling research paper should have the following quality standards:
- It should explicitly answer the research question without digressions into irrelevant areas (I hope this point is clear by now)
- present the well-researched arguments supporting the thesis
- demonstrate an understanding of basic contemporary therapeutic systems
- be simple, clear and concise
- be well researched
- be based on academic, scholarly sources
- be appropriately referenced per particular citation style: APA, Harvard, or other
- be 100% original with no copy-pasted materials
- contain proper citations to all discussed ideas
- use relevant academic and scholarly terms
- have a clear structure, correct grammar, spelling and punctuation
- be analytical and scientific
Now, we will analyze the two most common types of counseling research papers: the ones focused on the practical application of counseling theory and the ones centering on academic research and analysis.
Counseling papers requiring practical application of theoretical knowledge
Very often, counseling papers require you to analyze the knowledge of counseling theory or practice and apply it to a particular situation or a specific problem.
For example, the assignment may be like this: analyze a family system from a famous movie according to one theory of family therapy. Let's say the therapy approach that you have to use is the Circumplex model or Olsen's Integrative Family Therapy. First of all, you need to get information about your family therapy system. Look it up in your textbook - most likely, it will contain only a general description of the approach. Then look up specialized books on this type of therapy, and finally, go to Google Scholar and see if you can find research papers and journal articles about the application and effectiveness of this type of therapy. Pay particular attention to the intervention techniques - you will use them in "treating" your family. Then you need to choose a movie that you are going to analyze according to this approach. If you can pick any movie, look for the film that depicts family or couple relationships that are characteristic of your model. For example, the Circumplex model works with couples whose level of cohesion is either disengaged or enmeshed. You can literally search for "movies with dysfunctional families" or "movies with estranged or disengaged families" or "movies with enmeshed relationships" - in this way, you will find a selection of movies that will illustrate the particular situation that the model focuses on. Then watch a movie, and since you already know what your specific therapy model addresses, make some notes about aspects of relationships that you think are notable in the context of your counseling theory.
When you write a paper analyzing how you would help a family from your movie with your particular family therapy approach, make sure that you reply to all the questions present in your assignment (don't forget about our essential rule of always answering the research question). Structure your paper according to the sections expected in the final work. Be sure to use terminology from your family therapy model in describing the relationship dynamic of the family. If the model prescribes particular interventions, incorporate them in your intervention plan appropriately. If some interventions to not apply to your specific family, do not just mindlessly suggest them. Think what other treatment modalities, even perhaps from different therapy approaches, may be particularly helpful in this particular case. Use references from your previous literature search to back up your views.
So as you see, this assignment seeks to check how you can implement a theoretical knowledge about some model of therapy to a particular situation. It's a practical application task. So after watching a movie and before writing the paper, spend some time thinking about the family, imagine them as your clients, think about how you would behave with them, anticipate their reactions and replies. Think about how likely it is for them to improve based on your suggested interventions. Try to make your paper reflective and analytic.
Counseling papers requiring academic research and critical thinking
Here's another example of a research question for a counseling research paper: Can the relational psychoanalytic approach of Stephen A. Mitchell be more effective in working with social anxiety compared to classical psychoanalytic approaches?
To reply well to this question, first, you need to do the research. Get information on the relational psychoanalytic approach of Mitchell, preferably read his books and articles. Then, refresh your memory about classical psychoanalysis and make sure you understand the difference between the classical psychoanalytic approach and Mitchell's model. Next, research on treating social anxiety: what are the current predominant treatments? I bet CBT techniques are quite popular, but our task is not to write about CBT. In any case, we need to have an idea of the mainstream approaches of treating anxiety, and mention them in our paper briefly (don't forget about the danger of being tempted to answer an easier question). Then go to Google Scholar and try to research if there are any studies of treating social anxiety using classical psychoanalysis and relational psychoanalysis. Keep in mind that according to evidence-based practice, the best type of evidence is double-blind controlled clinical studies, that is interventions that can prove a causal relationship between the application of particular therapy and the clinical outcome of participants. In this specific example, last time I checked, there were no controlled trials on treating social anxiety with a classical approach, but there were quite a few studies of applying modern psychodynamic therapies to social anxiety problems, and some of them had quite a considerable success. Gather as much information as possible. In your particular case, the answer will not be very straightforward, as there is no way to compare the effectiveness of classical psychoanalysis with relational psychoanalysis solely based on controlled clinical trials (due to the absence of such trial on the classical psychoanalysis). So how can you build your case? What indirect evidence can you use on constructing your argument? For example, in contrast to classical psychoanalysis, the relational approach stresses the importance of a therapeutic relationship, and the therapeutic relationship has been shown to be more effective than the application of particular therapeutic techniques, irrespective of theoretical orientation. So you can argue that relational psychoanalysis combines the efficacy of classical psychoanalysis with additional benefits of the therapeutic relationship. You can also use the clinical trials of modern psychodynamic approaches that incorporate relational aspects to show that this perspective demonstrates clinical efficacy in treating this type of problem.
What this example illustrates is that a good research paper on counseling requires the knowledge of particular theory or approach to counseling, awareness of predominant techniques of treating a particular problem, the ability to research the latest studies on the efficacy of some interventions, and ability to analyze the information, sometimes not very direct or straightforward, to put forward your argument or support your opinion.
Also, very often, a good counseling research paper requires your ability to apply theoretical knowledge of approaches and techniques to a particular situation provided to you in the case studies. So you need to have background knowledge of psychotherapy and therapeutic interventions, and then you need to imagine yourself in the chair of a counselor and think about how you are going to apply these interventions in a particular situation.
So as you can see, a good research paper, apart from the background knowledge of psychotherapy and counseling techniques, requires the skills of research, critical thinking, analysis, and academic writing. You might need some time before you master all these skills. In the meantime, if you need help with writing, editing, or researching your college paper on counseling and psychotherapy, you can rely on Personal-Writer's team of experienced academic writers. Your orders will be handled by writers with graduate degrees in psychotherapy with extensive theoretical and practical knowledge of the subject. When you order from Personal-Writer.com, you can expect that your paper will meet the quality standards outlined at the beginning of this article.
Or read our detailed guide on how to write counseling case studies