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Many people will, at some point in their lives, find themselves in the role of a counsellor without having a true understanding of the concept of counselling or what the role of the professional counsellor entails.

There is a big difference between a professional counsellor and a person who uses some counselling skills as part of their role, for example their role as a friend or colleague. A professional counsellor is a highly trained individual who is able to use a different range of counselling approaches with their clients.

'Counselling' can be a confusing term - it often has different meanings for different people.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary (9th Edition) gives at least two definitions of counselling, which appear to be conflicting, adding to potential confusion:

“give advice to (a person) on social or personal problems, especially professionally. And “the process of assisting and guiding clients, especially by a trained person on a professional basis, to resolve especially personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties.”

Counselling is:

The process that occurs when a client and counsellor 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 behaviour, with a goal to facilitating positive change.

A relationship of trust. Confidentiality is paramount to successful counselling. Professional counsellors 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.

Counselling is Not: Giving advice, being Judgemental ore Critical, Attempting to sort out the problems of the client, Expecting or Encouraging a client to behave in a way in which the counsellor 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 counsellors own perspective, based on his/her own value system.

Both ‘psychotherapy’ and ‘counselling’ are terms that are used for the same process. Both terms relate to overcoming personal difficulties and working towards positive change.

Counselling is a helping approach that focuses upon the emotional and or intellectual experience of a client.
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