Consultation and advocacy are crucial in the effectiveness of mental health counseling among children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. With the increasing needs of individuals and their families; consultation and client advocacy are a priority (Holcomb-McCoy & Bryan, 2010). The purpose of this paper is to explore the similarities and differences between consultation and advocacy. The factors that effect successful advocacy and the benefits of advocacy in working with clients will also be presented. In addition, the possible institutional and social barriers that clients and counselors may face will be addressed. In closing, a hypothetical case study on child advocacy is also included to further illustrate the important role advocacy plays in the lives of clients.
Keywords: consultation, advocacy, counseling, institutional barriers, social barriers
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONSULTATION AND ADVOCACY 3
The Importance of Consultation and Advocacy in Mental Health Counseling
In mental health counseling, it is crucial to incorporate consultation and advocacy as part of the counseling process. Acting as a consultant, counselors seek collaboration between various systems to address issues that the client/clients are facing. They act as an ally within the collaborative group. In becoming an advocate, the counselor seeks to “take on the voice of the client” and involves informing and influencing decision makers on behalf of a vulnerable party (Lating, J., Barnett, J., & Horowitz, 2009). They assume the position of ally in order to intervene, then move into a more leadership role by advocating for the desired change (Lopez-Baez & Paylo, 2009). Consultation and advocacy are needed co-currently, in order to build a positive and trusting relationship with clients to effectively combat issues that impede the client's development. The major objectives of this paper are to (a) compare and contrast consultation and advocacy, (b) to discuss factors that impact successful advocacy, (c) to present the benefits of advocacy, (d) and to explore possible social and institutional barriers that counselors and clients face. In addition, a hypothetical case study on child advocacy will be presented to further illustrate the important role consultation and advocacy play in the lives of clients.
Consultation is narrowly defined as a structured, problem-solving collaborative relationship between one or more consultants and one or more consultees (Holcomb-McCoy &Bryan, 2010). Therefore the role of professional counselors in this context is to identify, analyze, remediate, and evaluate a client's needs in collaboration with the client/clients and other involved parties (e.g., parents, social workers, teachers, physicians). According to Caplan, Caplan, and Erchul (1995), two main goals of consultation are to improve the consultant's ability to work with a client and to assist the client in developing skills to cope with problems independently in the future. Consultation is a tool that THE IMPORTANCE OF CONSULTATION AND ADVOCACY 4
allows collaborative efforts to be deductively reasoned, focused, and influential in the treatment of said individual and/or individuals. In working with individuals, counselors who act as consultants are encouraged to abandon the role of researcher/expert and to recognize the wealth of knowledge that other team members bring to the table (Nelson, Amino, Prilleltensky, and Nickels, 2000). “Engaging multiple voices allows for clients, therapists, social workers, and other professionals to better understand each other” (Gerhart & Lucas, 2007, p.43). It is the counselor's responsibility to aid in the creation of these partnerships, to clarify the vision, and to identify and merge the strengths of different partners and approaches. These...
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