Counsultation in the field of counseling is a concept by which a person is able to consult with a counselor in order to develop a better sense of self. There is often a biblical aspect to this type of counseling, but that is not a requirement. People can also be counseled by those who address financial concerns, tax implications, or other types of personal and professional issues. Anytime someone sees a counselor for a counsultation on his or her status in some aspect of life, this type of activity takes place. Often, a counsultation takes place as the first line of defense in treating a mental health issue. A counselor can look over information provided by the patient as well as any past medical history in order to make some determinations about patient care and potential problems. At that time, there can be a counsultation appointment scheduled that will allow the patient to see a counselor (usually for one hour). Once that has been completed, the counselor can make a determination as to whether further counseling is necessary, or whether the counsultation was sufficient to provide a diagnosis.
Addressed here will be several aspects of this issue, including a history of its development to the counseling field, the importance it has within that field, and the major themes to which it can be linked. Additionally, the ethics, function, and identity of the counselor providing the counsultation is very important to address, because not all counselors are "cut out" to provide the initial counsultation with an individual. There are often biblical values and insights provided in the initial counsultation appointment, and those must be addressed along with other consideration into the topic.
Brief History and Development
Consultation has been around for some time in the counseling field, but counsultation is newer. This is, essentially, a blend of an initial consultation and a counseling session, because it has been shown to be effective in many cases where individuals did not need long-term counseling but may need just slightly more than an initial consultation appointment to determine what medications they should be taking and/or if there are deeper issues which they should explore through therapy or other means. Originally, people went to counselors for counseling, and they often went back each week or on whatever schedule was agreed upon by the patient and the counselor (Belkin, 1999; Worden, 1991). These patients often also took medication to help them through the worst of their symptoms, but that was not a requirement. Some of them attended Christian counseling, and others focused on a counselor who was more secular in nature Clinton & Ohlschlager, 2002; Doka, 2002). Either way, there were options to consider.
It was eventually determined that it would be easier for a person to have an initial consultation to see if they needed long-term therapy or whether there was something else that could be done for them that would be easier on the patient and easier on the counselor. One of the ideas that was successfully tried was the counsultation, whereby a patient would have a combination of an initial consultation and a counseling session. That could allow the counselor to make a better determination of whether the patient actually needed counseling or whether he or she needed a medication or some other type of therapy or medical treatment in order to get past the problem he or she was facing. Overall, there are many issues that can be treated with a counsultation instead of sending someone to therapy for the long-term or assuming that a consultation is all the patient needs.
Importance to the Counseling Field
Counsultations are very important to the counseling field because they provide a mix of a good consultation along with some level of beginning counseling. That can help a patient "get a jump" on his or her problem, instead of feeling as though a consultation is all he or she gets and it is necessary to wait until the next appointment before the counseling actually starts. While this may not work for all patients at all times, it is certainly easier on many patients and can provide them with what they need and want in a counseling appointment. It is also more efficient for both the patient and the counselor, which makes it difficult to overlook when considering the best way to address an issue with a patient. When a counsultation takes place, both patient and counselor can get a better feel for whether they like one another and whether they feel as though they will work well together. Patients who do not feel comfortable with their counselors are not as successful in therapy as those who like the person with whom they are working (Benner & Hill, 1999; Boss, 1999; Rynearson, 1984). The same is true with counselors who do not like their patients or who do not feel as though they have any kind of connection with their patients.
Of course, that does not mean that all patients and counselors will benefit from the counsultation, or that they will all make the right choices as to whether they can work with one another. That is something that is very individual to each person and has to be addressed as such. Despite that individuality, it has been shown that counselors who get to know their patients and whether they can have a good relationship with those patients are better able to determine whether they can care for those patients properly. Patients who take the time to get to know their counselors are generally more likely to work with those counselors on an open and honest basis, and to share what they feel more easily (Benner & Hill, 1999).
Major Themes and Their Relevance
Caring for people is something all counselors do and should strive for. In doing that, they should consider five things: ethics, empirically-based evidence, compassion, their own identity, and the identity of the patient (Benner, 1999; Clinton & Ohlschlager, 2002). It is not always easy to consider all of those things, mostly because some counselors will have very strong feelings one way or the other about a patient or potential patient. When that is the case, some individuals do not want to work with others, or they feel the need to work with a particular person even if there are compelling reasons why they would want to refer that person to someone else. Ethically, counselors must do what is right. If they can consult with a patient and get to know that person, they can determine if there are any ethical conundrums to which they might be subjected if they were to treat that patient. They can also get a feel for their level of compassion toward the patient, which can be a critical factor in whether they do their best for the patient from a counseling standpoint, or whether they simply do not connect.
The identity they have created for themselves, and the identity they see in the patient matter, as does the empirically-based evidence for what is "wrong" with the patient and how best to address it based on the determined reasons behind the problem (Benner, 1999). When a counselor and a patient have very different identities, it can be hard for them to work together in any way that allows for deep meaning and personal growth. Patients often benefit greatly from counseling, but counselors can also receive benefit and insight from their patients in some cases. If there is no connection between the identities of the counselor and the patient, that is much less likely to take place. Additionally, counselors have to understand the problem the patient is facing, and that patient has to be willing to understand the changes that need to be made in his or her life to overcome that problem.
Counselor Identity, Function, and Ethics
Who the counselor is as a person means more than some would think. There is a misperception that the function of a counselor is almost as an automaton who will help a patient through something tragic. Grief counselors, for example, work to help people get through the lost of a loved one, or sometimes that patient's own impending death (Engel, 1961; Fast, 2003; Lindemann, 1944; Neibuhr & Wilgoren, 1999). Their ethics require them to act a particular way and perform at a specific level, but that does not mean they should fail to be human (Office, 1999; Pine, 1976). In other words, any counselor should also be able to show the patient that the counselor is a real person who is capable of feelings and thoughts that go beyond the professional world of counselor and patient. Without being able to provide that level of understanding and compassion, there is little benefit to many counseling relationships. Each counselor is a human being first, and a counselor second. When counselors remember that, they can provide much more value to any patients they treat. Naturally, how much of himself or herself a counselor put into…