Definition of Counseling

The Discipline of Counseling is a relationship characterized by the application of one or more psychological theories and a recognized set of communication skills appropriate to a client’s intimate concerns, problems, or aspirations (Feltham & Dryden 1993). These clients are individuals or a group in a demoralized, distressed, or in a negative state of mind about their situation or context. Therefore, counseling can be for one person or a group and may be delivered through a number of methods such as through face-to-face dialog, group work, telephone, email, or other written materials.

Definition of Counseling

The Collins Dictionary of Sociology defines counseling as -the process of guiding a person during a stage of life when reassessments or decisions have to be made about himself x herself and his or her life course.” Counselors are professionally trained and certifiedto perform counseling. Their job is to provide advice or guidance in decision-making in emotionally significant situations by helping clients explore and understand their worlds and discover better ways and well-informed choices in resolving an emotional or interpersonal problem.

As a discipline, it is allied to psychology and deals with normal responses to normal life events, which may sometimes create stress for some people who, in turn, choose to ask for help and support. Counseling is generally a non-clinical intervention. Traditionally in many societies, counseling is provided by family, friends, and wise elderly. When these providers prove insufficient, counselors become the choice. Counselors exist in a wide range of areas of expertise: marriage, family, youth, student and other life transitions dealing with managing of issues of loss and death, retirement, divorce, parenting, and bankruptcy.

Counseling is widely considered the heart of the guidance services in schools. In the school context, counseling is usually done as individual or group intervention designed to facilitate positive change in student behavior, feelings, and attitudes. As a process, it involves two sides: an individual or group who needs help and a mature professionally trained counselor. Through methods adapted to the needs of the client(s), the trained counselor helps in defining a problem and acquires initiative, determination, courage, and efficiency to solve that problem. It helps clients understand and clarify their views of their life space and to learn to reach their self-determined goals through meaningful, well-informed choices and through resolution or problems of an emotional or interpersonal nature (Burks & Steffire 1979). 

Counseling also utilizes appraisal and assessment to aid counseling by gathering information about clients through the use of psychological tests and non-psychometric devices. Psychometrics is a branch of psychology that deals with the design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests for the measurement of psychological variables such as intelligence, aptitude, interests, and personality traits. The underlying assumption is that the variable being measured is a fixed and unchanging attribute of a person. The intent of psychometric testing is to use a number of carefully calibrated short or multiple-choice questions to accurately measure an individual’s aptitude or potential in a particular area, for example, reading or arithmetic. Tests employed are strictly standardized and administered by a professionally trained psychometrician.

Counseling is not to be confused with psychiatry, which is a branch of general medicine that deals with the treatment of the mentally ill by medically-trained professionals using clinical interventions including drugs, surgical procedures, and non-physical approaches.