William Whelton

William J. Whelton

Professor and Director of Counselling in Clinical Services, Faculty of Education

Educational Psychology

Research and Interests

My interests focus mostly on issues of process and outcome in psychotherapy.  I am particularly interested in the role that emotion plays in successful therapy and, more generally, in the process of change itself.  Emotion-focused, humanistic, experiential, relational gestalt and existential approaches to therapy are of special interest. I have also begun to study more about self psychology, relational psychoanalysis and intersubjective psychoanalysis. Another interest is in how certain personality traits, especially self-criticism understood as a trait conferring vulnerability to depression, interact with therapy processes such as the formation of a working alliance.  I have recently done research on adaptive and maladaptive forms of self-criticism and my interest in self-criticism dovetails with a larger, more theoretical interest in the nature of the self. Techniques and processes for changing the self in therapy flow from one's conception of the self. I have done research with a number of students on topics such as emotion, the self and the usefulness of Yoga in relation to eating disorders. I am also very interested in the history of psychology, for example in how the Romantic movement generated intellectual trends that deeply influenced individuals as diverse as Otto Rank and Carl Rogers.

Representative Publications

Sharpe, D. & Whelton W. J. (in press). Frightened by an old scarecrow: The remarkable resilience of demand characteristics. Review of General Psychology.

 Smith, A., & Whelton, W. J. (2016). Canadian master couple therapists. In L. Jennings and T.M. Skovholt (Eds.) Expertise in counseling and psychotherapy: Master therapist studies from around the world (pp.53-91)London, England: Oxford University Press.

 Major, R. J., Whelton, W. J., Schimel, J., & Sharpe, D. (2016). Older adults and the fear of death: The protective function of generativity. The Canadian Journal on Aging, 35, 1-12.

 Major, R. J., Whelton, W. J., & Duff, C. T. (2016). Secure your buffers or stare at the sun? Terror management theory and psychotherapy integration. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 26, 22-35.

 Whelton, W. J. (2015). Memory reconsolidation and self-reorganization. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, 45-46.

Dunn, J.C., Whelton, W.J., & Sharpe, D. (2012). Retreating to safety: Testing the social risk hypothesis model of depression. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33, 746-758

Barford, S., & Whelton, W.J. (2010). Understanding burnout in child and youth care workers. Child and Youth Care Forum, 39, 271-287

Emmerling, M.E., & Whelton, W.J. (2009). Stages of change and the working alliance in psychotherapy.      Psychotherapy Research, 19, 687-698

Whelton, W.J., Paulson, B.L., & Marusiak, C. (2007). Self-criticism and the therapeutic relationship. Counselling       Psychology Quarterly, 20, 135-148

Whelton, W.J. & Greenberg, L.S. (2005). Emotion in self-criticism. Personality and Individual Differences, 38,            1583-1595.

Whelton, W.J. (2004).  Emotional processes in psychotherapy: Evidence across therapeutic modalities.  Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 11, 58-71.

Dunn, J.C., Whelton, W.J., & Sharpe, D. (2006). Maladaptive perfectionism, hassles, coping, and psychological distress in university professors. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 511-523.

Theoretical Orientation

I am a believer in the necessity and value of theoretical integration in psychotherapy and I am also committed to the importance of scientific research in psychotherapy. I strongly support the value of theory to the competent practice of therapy. My own approach is largely in the existential, emotion-focused and relational gestalt traditions. Creating a dialogical therapeutic environment that is roughly in line with the values and orientation of Rogers is the core foundation of therapy as well as a clear recognition that therapy is a two-person, relational enterprise. Attention to the therapeutic process is central, especially the therapist’s attunement to the emotional experience of the client. Helping the client grow in awareness, freedom and agency is generally a broad goal of therapy. Awareness of, and conversation about, the cultural identities and traditions of both the therapist and client is an indispensable part of an honest, helpful encounter.

Courses Taught

  • EDPY 442  Introduction to Counselling
  • EDPY 532 Systems of Counselling
  • EDPY 533/534  Basic Skills, Issues, and Attitudes in Counselling I and II
  • EDPY 632  History and Systems of Psychology
  • EDPY 633/634 Advanced Counselling Practicum I and II