Renowned counseling professor named fellow by American Counseling Association
Contrary to Freudian theory, R. Rocco Cottone believes good mental health is rooted in relationships, not the individual psyche.
“When clients come to counselors, they don’t say, ‘Doctor, my id is overactive, and I have a weak superego,’” said the University of Missouri–St. Louis professor of counseling and family therapy in the College of Education. “They say, ‘My spouse is cheating on me,’ or ‘I can’t get along with my in-laws,’ or ‘I’ve got a boss who’s a sick son-of-a-gun.’ And if you really listen to what clients are saying, it’s all about relationships.”
Cottone refined his counseling theory through synthesizing and putting into practice the work of psychologist Kenneth Gergen, biologist Humberto Maturana and a host of modern philosophers and scholars. A relationship-centric view of counseling has not only affected his approach to counseling, it has had a profound effect on his life.
“The times that I’ve been most messed up are the times that I’ve been enmeshed in very sick, unhealthy relationships. So luckily I’ve been able to extricate myself from those and move on,” he said. “I’m 64 years old. I’ve lived life and had my ups and downs. I think the theory itself helps explain how I ended up where I am, and it also explains how I could have ended up going down a very different path. Luckily I had people who cared about me and loved me and helped me through the tough times to find a healthier place to be.”
Cottone has published several books, including “Paradigms of Counseling and Psychotherapy,” “Ethics and Decision Making in Counseling and Psychotherapy” and “Toward a Positive Psychology of Religion: Belief Science in the Postmodern Era.” He has also published more than 100 scholarly articles exploring ethics and advanced counseling theory.
For his 36 years of contributions to the field of counseling, the American Counseling Association inducted him as an ACA fellow on Saturday, April 2, during the American Counseling Association-Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association conference in Montreal.
Cynthia Mulit, a second-year counseling doctoral candidate who moved from New Jersey to study with Cottone, is not surprised by his recent honor.
“Dr. Cottone is a teaching genius. He seamlessly scaffolds students, slide by slide, into deeper and deeper levels of clarity about complex philosophical theories related to family counseling. He makes the complex look easy,” said Mulit. “What could be better than an award for a brilliant man, a prolific author and proficient clinician who cares about others? Dr. Cottone and Dr. Mark Pope built a world-class counseling program here at UMSL.”
As Cottone continues to foster healthier personal relationships through counseling, he is honored to be awarded for his service.
“It’s very flattering,” he said. “I’ve had great support from the administration, my faculty and students here. Getting awards is icing on the cake. I get to take these things home to my teenagers and say, ‘See, dad’s not such a dummy after all.’”
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