Is Counselling the same as guidance?
Counselling is not the same as guidance. However, counselling in practice involves aspects of guidance.
And what are those aspects?
Let’s find out.
Guidance helps us in making important decisions in life. For example, parents guide their children in choosing a club in school.
I need guidance to answer this question: Should I go for Drama Club or Writing Club?
How can I get the job of my dreams?
Guidance involves two parties where one party usually has a higher knowledge status (eg a parent) in comparison to the other party (child).
Did I say party? I said, party. Not the Saturday night party. Sorry to break your blog heart. By party I mean,
You, the seeker of help (and lets see if you go for guidance or counselling) is one party.
And the provider of help that is the person providing guidance or counselling is another party.
So, what is guidance again?
Guidance focusses on helping people make important decisions in their life. In the example above, a parent provides guidance to his child about which club to join in school. Here, the two parties are: parent and child.
We note that there is a power dynamic here. The individual providing guidance is usually an authority figure in the domain (the seeker needs guidance in). And the help seeker is usually less experienced or less of an authority figure. Though this is not always the case.
But, what’s counselling?
Currently, there are various types of ‘counsellors’ in the market.
You must have heard of career counselling, educational counselling. But here, we are talking about the mental health counselling.
In this type of counselling, mental health professionals are trained to make changes in the client’s behaviour and thinking.
This involves a healthy dialogue with their clients. Not just passive listening, but active engagement with the client.
And how is this listening any different from how your friends listen?
Well, firstly, counsellors are trained in listening. So, this type of listening is definitely not passive hearing. There are numerous texts, guidelines and workshops the counsellors attend to master the art of having a good listening ear. And having meaningful dialogues with their clients is in their job description.
You may have noticed, I am using the word ‘client’ instead of a ‘patient’. Many psychologists prefer using the word client instead of a patient. But, both these terms can be understood interchangeably in this blog.
Will you tell this to my mother?
There is a clause of confidentiality that the counsellor follows with respect to whatever is shared in the counselling session. Meaning, the counsellor is obliged to preserve the information shared in the safe and private setting of the counselling session and doesn’t share this information outside of the session.
In guidance, there may or may not be such a clause. Following confidentiality is upto the discretion of the individual providing guidance and there is no governing body that inspects their behaviour. Unlike, counselling, which involves guidelines that counsellors need to follow.
These guidelines are provided by the national body the counsellors are affiliated with.
According to Wittmer & Loesch (1986), counsellors are members of organisations that provide set standards (ethical and professional). These organisations have fixed procedures for licensing and work ethics that the individual counsellors need to apply for. For example, in Canada, would apply through the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association
In India, on the other hand, Rehabilitation Council of India regulates and monitors services such as counselling, psychotherapy, special education etc.
There is no such licensure body for the individual delivering guidance. And that makes sense because a little while earlier, we read that even our parents can provide us guidance. And oh, someone else’s parents and any authority figure who has knowledge in a particular field we are interested in, can provide guidance too. So, to reiterate; there is no governing body here.
I am a counsellor. Do I have to be a certain way?
There is a lot of work by eminent psychologists and theorists on this. And there are several personal characteristics associated with being a good counsellor. Openness, empathy, openness, self-awareness etc. The most interesting characteristic is that of a wounded healer.
Existing as a concept since Greek Mythology.
and 2500 years old. (Groesbeck, 1975).
This is a concept that takes from the counsellor’s (healer’s) personal experience. According to this, a person with his/her own history of issues and problems is able to introspect and extract the transformational qualities of his issues. And use this to help his clients.
Is this why we seek out help from people who have gone through similar issues as ours and overcome them?
While a popular mode of counselling is 1-1 but there may be more than one client during the session. So, there could be a group counselling session. Ever seen those TV programmes and movies where they show ‘family counselling sessions’?
Guidance too can happen in a 1-1 setting as well as a group setting.
Why do this?
Often people get drawn towards the career of counselling because they want to help others.
But, can there be dysfunctional motivators of counselling?
Contrary to what we may want to believe. Some people get motivated towards careers like ‘counselling’ for not so right reasons. If you are interested in exploring this, it’ll be a treat for you to read the introductory chapter of David Cohen’s book ‘Psychologists on Psychology ‘
This is where, David Cohen interviews several top psychologists. One of the questions he explores here is if there’s any ‘link between the theories a psychologist advocates to her personality and her motivations’.
Interestingly, Cohen ponders upon the claims by various psychologists like McClelland, that psychologists have a high need for power.
Other unhealthy reasons continue…
In 1987, James Guy underlined some unhealthy reasons that can motivate people to become counsellors. These include “emotional distress, vicarious coping,
loneliness and isolation,
a desire of having power of others,
need for love and
even vicarious rebellion”.
Is it practised the same everywhere?
It isn’t news that most of what we know about counselling and guidance is a result of Western Literature on it. And even within the west, there has been some debate about what theoretical orientations a counsellor could (& perhaps should) adopt. Having said that, it is important to note that there has been umpteen knowledge generation by Westerners in this field.
But, do all counsellors of every country work in exactly the same manner?
The answer to this question is a two part answer.
One, is yes. In the manner that all counsellors do follow certain basic principles that make what they are doing, qualifiable enough to be called, ‘counselling’. So, they are emphatic, have good listening skills, follow confidentiality, are self-aware and have good people’s skills.
But, it is also noted that the cultural setting from which a client emerges changes things. For instance, in an article on ‘Counselling and Guidance in Africa’, Goss, S., & Adebowale (2014) argues that there is an inherent problem in comparing the practice of counselling in the West with Africa. This difficulty results from the differences in the client’s experiences, availability of infrastructure, state policies as well as the cultural variations.
It can argued that the same can be said about other countries like, India, Papua New Guinea etc.
Both guidance and counselling involves at least two parties. One is the individual (or individuals) who seek help from the other individual who either provides guidance or counselling, depending upon the situation.
A counsellor can also provide guidance at home, to his children. So, one person can play two roles. However, in order for an individual to provide counselling, s/he needs to obtain a certificate of qualification from an appropriate national authority in their country of residence (or practice).
We seek guidance from people who are more experienced and qualified than us in the domain we are seeking advice. Both counselling and guidance are attempts to help someone seeking some kind of assistance. Guidance is more directive and counselling is more assistive in nature. In essence, guidance can assist us in making important decisions in life. And counselling can help us when with our personal issues, by strengthening us to become strong in dealing with our difficulties. Therapy on the other hand deals with deeper and broader range of issues.
So, nothing is bad or
wrong or stigmatising
about seeking guidance and/or counselling.
If anything, its a good idea to seek help.
And, yeah before I forget. Did you figure out the answer?
Are you going to go for counselling or guidance?
For reference, you can read the book by Gladding, take a look at it below.
Groesbeck, C. J. (1975). The archetypal image of the wounded healer. Journal of analytical psychology, 20(2), 122-145.
Goss, S., & Adebowale, O. (2014). Counselling and guidance in Africa.