Principles-Based Counselling and Psychotherapy
A Method of Levels approach

Timothy A. Carey, Warren Mansell, and Sara J. Tai

2015, Routledge. ISBN 9780415738781

Book Description

Many current approaches to the treatment of psychological problems focus on specific disorders and techniques that are purported to be effective and distinct. Recent advances in knowledge and theory, however, have called into question this approach. The conceptual framework of transdiagnostic, rather than disorder specific, processes is gaining traction. Alongside this has been the call to focus on evidence-based principles rather than evidence-based practices and techniques. The rationale behind this is that many apparently unique and innovative practices are usually the reflection of common underlying principles. This book describes three foundational principles that are key to understanding both the rise and the resolution of psychological distress.

Principles-Based Counselling and Psychotherapy promotes a Method of Levels (MOL) approach to counselling and psychotherapy. Using clinical examples and vignettes to help practitioners implement a principles-based approach, this book describes three fundamental principles for effective therapeutic practice and their clinical implications. The first chapter of the book provides a rationale for the principles-based approach. The second chapter describes the three principles of control, conflict, and reorganisation and how they relate to each other from within a robust theory of physical and psychological functioning. The remainder of the book covers important aspects of psychological treatment such as the therapeutic relationship, appointment scheduling, and the change process from the application of these three principles.

With important implications for all therapeutic approaches, Principles-Based Counselling and Psychotherapy will be an invaluable resource for psychotherapists, counsellors and clinical psychologists in practice and training. It provides clarity about their role, and a means for providing a resolution to psychological distress and improving the effectiveness of their practice.


“This new book from Carey, Mansell and Tai is a refreshing reading. My enthusiasm with this new perspective is that central features of MOL approach are important bridges between several methods of therapy, from cognitive-behavior, to constructivist and process-oriented, to experiential therapies. Therapists focus in understanding clients’ meaning-making processes, center in clients’ distress (not in their symptoms), emphasize the therapeutic relationship, conceive clients as experts into their own lives, and highlight the therapeutic power of each individual session. A must read for all psychotherapists, both experienced and trainees.”

Miguel M. Gonçalves, PhD, Professor, Director – Psychology Research Center (CIPsi), Vice-President – School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal

“This book notes in its introduction that it hopes to intrigue, challenge and excite the reader.  In a refreshing text, which slices therapeutic work in a novel direction by advocating a principles-based approach, it certainly achieved these goals for me.”

Terry Hanley, Director of the Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at the University of Manchester, UK

“Carey, Mansell, and Tai lay out a set of principles that will help you cut through the morass of conflicting therapeutic techniques and approaches and deliver more effective and consumer-friendly treatment.”

Scott D. Miller, Ph.D.,

“This book offers a reader-friendly, example-packed account of the Method of Levels (MOL), an innovative therapy grounded in the principles of Perceptual Control Theory (PCT). PCT holds that people control their lives by acting to match their perceptions with their goals. MOL suggests that when clients’ goals conflict with each other, a path out of conflict is stepping up a level to view the conflicting goals from a broader perspective. The therapy is radically person-centered without being nondirective. It focuses on articulating clients’ goals and perceptions, facilitating–but not imposing–a productive reorganization. A valuable book for clinicians seeking a fresh perspective.”

William B. Stiles, Professor Emeritus, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA

“Carey, Mansell, and Tai provide a compelling description and argument for principle-based counselling. They demonstrate the wisdom of focusing on principles over techniques. They explain the dynamics of change and why profound changes can occur  in a just a few or even a single session. A very provocative and wise book.”

Michael J. Lambert, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Susa Young Gates University Professor, Brigham Young University, USA