How does Counselling differ from other Helping Roles?

Counselling skills support a person’s decision-making or capacity to feel better, without the counsellor imposing his or her own view on what the individual should do or even feel. This is in contrast to what a parent, good friend or colleague might do.


As a parent, you may help your child in many ways, including the provision of unconditional love, encouragement, giving money, being kind and generous, making him or her laugh, prescribing and practising discipline, and always being available.


As a friend, you offer your loyalty, a sense of standing up for another person, honesty, money-lending, being fun to be with, sharing hobbies and interests, occasional disagreements, availability and opinions.


When something goes wrong in a person’s life, a friend or relative may say things that aim to comfort a person, such as: ‘You mustn’t put blame on yourself!’ or ‘You’re better off without him – there are plenty more fish in the sea!’ There may be no shortage of advice, platitudes and opinions by those people in the life of the client. These can be very useful.


However, a person with counselling skills will encourage a process of positive change. This relationship exists specifically for this, and does not stray into other roles.


In contrast to friends, relatives and acquaintances, a counsellor has a more formal relationship with the client; he or she will help reduce confusion by helping the person to explore and understand the current situation as a forerunner to making and carrying out plans of action. A safe and confidential space will be provided in which the individual expresses thoughts openly, working through challenges, without fear of judgment, opinions or advice.


The reasons that counsellors do not give specific advice include the following:


  • Advice-giving is a one-way communication system. Rather than the individual being empowered to work through the problems experienced, he or she is told what to do. This means that the client is not active in the whole process.

  • We all perceive our experiences of life uniquely. Therefore, any advice given will often say more about the adviser than it does about the person receiving it.

  • People may not want advice. Instead, they may prefer to be listened to, understood, and to have a voice.

  • Even if advice given is good advice, the person being counselled does not change, and as such, does not learn to make good decisions in the future.

  • Individuals may often ask for advice when feeling helpless or wanting to bypass the need for fundamental change. Receiving advice is much easier than undertaking an often painful process of self examination and change.


If you would like to know more, check out ADL’s range of counselling courses.




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