What is Counselling?

What is Counselling and How Does It Differ from Counselling Skills?

counselling explainedWhen asked what is counselling, I find it is an interesting question that is maybe deeper than it seems. As we have seen on the counselling skills page, people in different professions use counselling skills, so what is the difference is between someone who uses counselling skills as part of their work role and a counsellor?

A counsellor should be qualified in counselling or working towards their qualification. Clients should know that they are entering a counselling relationship and should want to be counselled.



The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is one of the organisations that oversee good practice and ethics in counselling. It states:

‘Counselling and psychotherapy is a contractual arrangement by which a practitioner meets a client, in privacy and confidence, to explore distress the client may be experiencing.
This may be a difficulty; their dissatisfaction with life; or loss of a sense of direction or purpose.

‘Counselling and psychotherapy are always undertaken at the request of the client and no-one can properly be “sent” for counselling or psychotherapy.’

So we can see that counselling is quite different from someone just listening to you. A counsellor will contract with you, making an agreement on when the sessions will take place, how many sessions there will be, and the cost (if it is a paid service). They will inform you  about confidentiality, in terms of what they can and cannot disclose.

Counsellors should have regular supervision from a supervisor who will be able to support and develop their skills and knowledge. In this sense, counselling is a managed activity.
Perhaps the biggest difference between counsellors and other professionals who use counselling skills is that counsellors do not offer advice.

If you take a second to think, you would want advice from some professionals who use counselling skills, such as doctors, teachers and hairdressers.
A counsellor believes that you have the answers within you, and together you can find them.

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