This discussion will begin by considering two definitions of counselling, moving on to identify key elements of practice and what makes counselling different from other professions where counselling skills may be used. Finally the discussion will consider the role of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) which regulates the profession.
In order to answer this question, it is necessary to consider definitions of counselling from both professional and client perspectives. This definition is the professional perspective from the BACP:
‘Counselling takes place when a counsellor sees a client in a private and confidential setting to explore a difficulty the client is having, distress they may be experiencing or perhaps their dissatisfaction with life, or loss of a sense of direction and purpose.’ (BACP, 2009)
It is important professionals understand the meaning of counselling and have a professional perspective so they work in a competent manner, however for effective counselling to occur, the client has to be comfortable with the counsellor so it is also useful to consider the client’s perspective:
‘Counselling is an activity that takes place when someone who is troubled invites and allows another person to enter into a particular kind of relationship with them. A person seeks such a relationship when they encounter ‘a problem in everyday living’ that they have not been able to resolve through their everyday resources, and that has resulted in their exclusion from some aspect of full participation in social life.’ (McLeod, 2008, pg 23)
From both of these definitions it can be seen that counselling is a professional relationship between the counsellor and client, in a confidential setting, where the client can discuss their issues and is enabled to find their own answers.