Good counsel is based on trust

A reader asks for the best approach to seeking quality counselling.


Most of your articles encourage people to seek counselling. I’d like to suggest that in many cases, counselling does more harm than good.

I worked for five years in a community health service and saw first-hand how some of these so-called counsellors operated and the damage they caused to numerous relationships. How can you be sure to get a decent one?


To be registered by the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia, the Australian Counselling Association, the Psychology Board of Australia and other professional organisations, counsellors must demonstrate they meet training standards. These include having university qualifications, high ethical standards and continuing professional development.

However, to practise as a “counsellor” it is not legally necessary to be a registered counsellor or even to have had specific counselling training. Some people who practise as counsellors do not have appropriate skills.

The organisations that Family Forum recommends all require counsellors to meet very high professional standards, as will most government and non-government organisations. Larger organisations such as Relationships Australia also expect counsellors to participate in supervision of their practice.

Medicare rebates are available for psychological treatment by registered psychologists.

Counsellors, however, like other professionals, may have high qualifications and yet lack empathetic skills, or they may be seen as inadequate by a client.

The relationship between counsellors and clients is very important and should be based on trust. After the first interview, clients should feel that the counsellor has listened and has understood, and they should feel comfortable when sharing personal details. If they don’t and are dissatisfied, it is acceptable to ask for someone different.

Therapeutic counsellors however will not tell clients what to do to solve the problem, but will work with them to assist in finding whatever they need to deal with it.

Clients should look at their own expectations. Counselling requires participation from clients, and addressing past wounds can be painful. They need to remember it is they, the client, who will learn how to resolve the issues. Perhaps those you spoke to about counselling had unrealistic expectations.

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