Counselling: exploring fear and sadness
Fear and sadness are the most common problems that people seek counselling for. This module introduces you to the ways in which they have been understood: as 'mental health problems'; by different forms of individual therapy; and by approaches that focus on the family, the social group, or society. While the module is primarily academic, you’ll develop awareness of counselling skills, processes and techniques. The main sections of the module cover: historical developments in understanding fear and sadness; key individual counselling approaches; approaches that consider relationships and cultural aspects of human suffering; and the practice and evaluation of counselling.
What you will study
There has been tremendous growth in counselling since the late 1980s, with huge numbers of people seeking help in individual counselling, in group therapy and through related 'self-help' books. Fear and sadness (often classed as 'anxiety' and ‘depression’ if they are diagnosed) are the most common 'mental disorders' in Britain, with a combined prevalence of 15 per cent diagnosed each year. In recent years, many celebrities and authors have documented their own struggles with these difficulties, decreasing some of the stigma that has surrounded them. Related to this, there has been a significant growth in counselling over the last twenty years. This is likely to continue with further recognition of the need for counselling across a number of arenas (NHS, voluntary sector, education, business) and the current economic state of the nation.
Counselling: exploring fear and sadness is designed to chart the relationship between the counselling profession and the emotions of fear and sadness. It covers the ways in which these types of human distress have been understood and treated in the past and how they are currently conceptualised and worked with in the counselling profession. The module traces the history of counselling and therapy from their origins in industrialisation and secularisation, through the development of psychoanalysis, the medical diagnosis and treatment of emotional difficulties, and the recent expansion of the counselling profession and proliferation of approaches.
A story is woven through the main branches of individual therapy (psychodynamic, humanistic/existential and cognitive-behavioural) to illustrate how fear and sadness have largely been located in people's ways of viewing and thinking about the world. You'll be encouraged to build your own understanding of how these issues may be best understood and worked with through comparing differing key approaches and attempts that have been made to synthesise them. In addition, a critical stance towards the 'individualisation' of problems in counselling is presented through consideration of fear and sadness at the level of the relationship (such as the couple or family), the group, and the society we live in. Key threads are drawn out such as explaining fear and sadness as located in individual perceptions or in real-world social problems, and understanding them at a psychosocial and/or biological level.
While this module is primarily academic, you'll be encouraged to apply what you're reading to your own life, the lives of others and your own practice (if appropriate) through the inclusion of reflective exercises and case studies to demonstrate the similarities and differences between various approaches. You'll be taken through the process of counselling, the ways in which the relationship is used within therapy, the balance between listening and offering interpretations in various approaches, and the use of specific techniques. Through this material, and related exercises, skills in counselling practice are further developed. Research evidence on the outcomes and process of therapy is also introduced and discussed. You'll also be introduced to the skills in understanding and interpreting research findings, encouraging you to consider how counselling, and other common ways of treating fear and sadness, might usefully be evaluated.
The module is taught primarily through a textbook and online via the module website. Counselling skills are also introduced through specially produced audio-visual materials and by practising self-directed activities. Tutorials are offered to further support you in your learning.
This is an OU level 2 module that provides core subject knowledge and study skills. It builds on the themes covered in the OU level 1 module Introduction to counselling (D171) (now discontinued), but it is not a requirement to have studied this module first. If you are new to studying at university level, or haven't studied for some time, we strongly recommend that you study an OU level 1 module first.
As this module can lead to a professionally-recognised qualification in counselling, and due to some aspects of the course content and activities, entry is only open to students over the age of eighteen at module start date. To see some of the module content please go to our OpenLearn site.
Although we support students in learning this subject, please note that your tutor is not there to help with your own life or personal difficulties. This is not a function that this module can fulfil.
If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.
Textbook and VLE, with additional learning resources provided by the module website.
A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.
Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.
A desktop or laptop computer with either:
- Windows 7 or higher
- macOS 10.7 or higher
The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.
To participate in our online discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones.
Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.