Evaluating the Role of Formulation in Counselling Psychology: A Systematic Literature Review

Harriet Challoner, Fani Papayianni


Despite the importance placed upon the concept and act of formulation across multiple therapeutic approaches, there is a lack of literature from within the profession of counselling psychology directly on the role, use and practice of formulation, with existing literature predominantly emanating from the related yet distinct therapeutic fields of counselling, psychotherapy, clinical psychology or psychiatry. This, in conjunction with the controversies and lack of consensus on the subject, as well as the demands of the professional and regulatory bodies, have led to this paper. Our aim is to shed light on the role that formulation plays within the profession under the lens of counselling psychology’s philosophical underpinnings. More specifically, this systematic review investigates whether formulation may be considered as fact or opinion; whether formulations across therapeutic approaches may be cohesive or divisive within counselling psychology practice; whether formulations should be undertaken inclusively with clients and other professionals or exclusively by the practitioner. Such exploration uncovers key areas of debate and potential considerations for the profession regarding how formulation is approached, utilised in clinical practice and, taught by training institutions.


formulation; case conceptualisation; counselling psychology; counselling psychology training; psychological therapy; scientist-practitioner model