Many people will, at some point in their lives, find themselves in the role of a counselor without having a true understanding of the concept of counseling or what the role of the professional counselor entails.
There is a big difference between a professional counselor and a person who uses some counseling skills as part of their role, for example their role as a friend or colleague. A professional counselor is a highly trained individual who is able to use a different range of counseling approaches with their clients.
This page defines and introduces the concept of counseling and the role of a counselor.
The process that occurs when a client and counselor set aside time in order to explore difficulties which may include the stressful or emotional feelings of the client.
The act of helping the client to see things more clearly, possibly from a different view-point. This can enable the client to focus on feelings, experiences or behavior, with a goal to facilitating positive change.
A relationship of trust. Confidentiality is paramount to successful counseling. Professional counselors will usually explain their policy on confidentiality, they may, however, be required by law to disclose information if they believe that there is a risk to life.
Counseling is Not:
Attempting to sort out the problems of the client.
Expecting or encouraging a client to behave in a way in which the counselor may have behaved when confronted with a similar problem in their own life.
Getting emotionally involved with the client.
Looking at a client’s problems from your own perspective, based on your own value system.
Counseling and Psychotherapy
Both ‘psychotherapy’ and ‘counseling’ are terms that are used to describe the same process.
Both terms relate to overcoming personal difficulties and working towards positive changes.
Counseling is a helping approach that highlights the emotional and intellectual experience of a client, how a client is feeling and what they think about the problem they have sought help for.
Psychotherapy, however, is based in the psychodynamic approach to counselling – it encourages the client to go back to their earlier experiences and explore how these experiences effect their current ‘problem’.
A psychotherapist, therefore, helps the client to become conscious of experiences which they were previously unaware of. Counselors, however, are less likely to be concerned with the past experiences of the client and are generally trained in a humanistic approach, using techniques from client-centered therapy.