What is counseling?
Many people view counseling as advice-giving. For example, someone may be experiencing a particular issue and decide to go to counseling for advice on how to proceed. However, before determining if counseling is advice-giving, let’s first define counseling.
The American Counseling Association defines counseling as “a collaborative effort between the counselor and client. Professional counselors help clients identify goals and potential solutions to problems which cause emotional turmoil; seek to improve communication and coping skills; strengthen self-esteem; and promote behavior change and optimal mental health.” Furthermore, the American Mental Health Counseling Association explains that counseling “combines traditional psychotherapy…[to] create a dynamic and efficient path for change and problem resolution.”
Each therapist develops their own style of practicing counseling, but overall the goal of counseling is to help clients achieve their determined outcomes. For more information about my style of counseling and what the practice offers, check out the blog post on integrative mental health counseling.
Is counseling advice-giving?
Counseling is not intended to provide advice, despite the public perception. I view counseling as a process that guides clients through partnership, in which I assist clients by guiding and empowering them to gain insight and awareness of their problems. Through insight, clients are able to make informed choices for meaningful change. This process often includes treatment recommendations. Recommendations are based on my knowledge of mental health and experience as a clinician, yet it is not advice in that clients must do as I say and do not have autonomy in their decision-making.
Doing the work.
Something I often tell clients is that I cannot do the work. Successful outcomes in counseling require work to be done by the client. While I can assist in the process, I can neither tell clients what they must do nor can do the work for them. Ideally, through counseling, clients will feel empowered and able to make informed choices about changes that will lead to their desired outcomes.