Types of consultation in counseling

Consultation - IResearchNet

The defining moment for most products that have reached an iconic status is the generic application of the product’s name, such as the use of “Kleenex” to indicate any brand of tissue. Similarly, the practice of consulting has reached a comparable level of renown and one is able to find it in almost every aspect of our present society. Today, in any given business or academic arena, one can locate listings for financial consulting, international consulting, executive sales and marketing consulting, and even nutritional consulting. Historically, the term consulting existed more frequently as a verb and predates society’s current trend toward life coaches who “consult” on issues such as career, relationships, and communication styles. This article on consultation emanates from a psychological frame of reference that addresses different forms of consultation and the competent and ethical practice of consulting.

Consulting Defined

The act or art of consulting is typically tied to solution seeking. It can be thought of as a set of helping behaviors in which one party is seeking input, advice, or feedback from another related to a problem, question, or dilemma. Several authors within the field of counseling psychology, such as Sandra Shullman and John M. Whiteley, have traced the origins of consulting to the early guidance days of Frank Parsons during which counselors and psychologists worked diligently in business settings and industrial organizations to solve vocational problems for groups, as well as individuals.

Perhaps most notable in the early life of psychological (mental health) consultation is the seminal work of Gerald Caplan with his prevention-based book titled The Theory and Practice of Mental Health Consultation. This work presented prevention- and developmental-based intervention options for mental health professionals that would take place outside of the therapy room. By doing so, it created the opportunity to apply psychological principles through assistance or advice in outreach types of activities. An outline of Caplan’s four types of consultation would typically include client-centered case consultation, consultee-centered consultation, program-centered consultation, and administrative consultation. Since Caplan’s work, consultation has been broadened to include school counseling and education, advocacy, group, and process consultation. Work in these arenas may be theoretically based on behavior-oriented, (industrial) organizational, or social justice-based solutions. Their underpinnings, though, can be connected to the early works of Caplan.

Types of Consultation

Collegial Consultation

One common form of consultation is the informal or formal exchange of information that occurs in the professional lives of counselors as they move toward refining their own clinical techniques; establishing expertise in a particular faction of study; or improving upon a design, method, or approach. In the field of counseling, practitioners are taught to seek consultation when faced with complicated issues that are not always well defined in textbooks or evidenced-based research. A common situation that requires consultation is the realization of a potential ethical dilemma involving clients, colleagues, or students. Thus, consultating with another professional allows for the translation of what may appear abstract or unknown into observations or behaviors that others have studied and/or experienced, and for which solutions have been developed.

Agency Consultation

In more formal settings, such as businesses, consultation often occurs in the context of a contractual relationship between the consultant, who holds some expertise in a specified area, and the consultee, who has identified a need or potential need but does not have the knowledge or skills required to address the issue. The consultant is held in the role of “expert” and proceeds to clarify the consultee’s goals or referral questions and then sets out to analyze the situation through the study of a group, system, or process. This can incorporate direct assessment of a person or groups as well as indirect observation and data collection from others. Subsequently, the consultant interprets and outlines the results for the consultee in an effort to assist in potential problem solving or identification of structural issues, concerns, or conflicts. In most instances the consultant is collaborating with the consultee to arrive at the point of problem resolution. This mode of consultation is the essence of the scientist-practitioner model of counseling psychology. The science is manifest in the methods of investigation and research of the issues at hand, while the practice is applied through the skills of the counseling psychologist as he or she intervenes and facilitates the process.

Stages of Consulting

The literature has demonstrated that, similar to the therapy process, the consultation experience includes different stages or phases that originate with a well-grounded working relationship. The importance of a working relationship in counseling may seem self-evident, but it is equally important in the consultation process. If rapport is not present, productivity is limited. As with therapy, the phases of assessment, conceptualization, and solution development are often taking place as the consultant continues to build the consultation relationship. Once a working relationship has been established, clearly defining the problem, concern, or issue at hand becomes paramount to the success of the consultation process. Whether the identified need is an organizational issue of reduced productivity or a work group’s difficulty in successful management of differing opinions, the participants must have a common definition of the concern as they begin their process.

Once such groundwork is clarified and understood by the engaged parties, the goal setting and problem solving may begin. It is important to remember that parallel to therapy, this understanding should be reviewed often as the consultation proceeds. Clarifying the consultation process, in addition to evaluating ongoing progress or assessing outcomes, is crucial to the successful maintenance and completion of the consulting relationship. The positive termination of a consulting relationship is dependent on a cooperative understanding of the tasks at hand and the skillful facilitation of an accountable, working relationship.

Competency Standards

Perhaps one way to ensure competent consulting in today’s mental health professions is to better quantify and define the basics of competency-based training, course work, and field experiences. As noted, there has been a proliferation of consulting “professionals” in today’s job arenas. One can easily locate a number of corporate- or business-related consulting career titles available in any given phone directory or Better Business Bureau listing. Additionally, there are now persons from fields outside of psychology who promote themselves as consultants in a multitude of areas, such as retirement, spirituality, personal fitness training, athletic activities, and fashion.

The need for increased professional clarification in psychology-based consultation has been recognized through the timely efforts of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) educational workgroups. The workgroups propose and outline benchmarks in an attempt to delineate boundaries of practice, developmental progress, educational requirements, internship, and practice and supervision needs. Such efforts point to a desire for more quality control in the area of consultation and a more systematic approach to the training of psychologists in the area of consultation. Likewise, Stewart E. Cooper, and numerous authors from industrial/organizational, school psychology, military, and counseling psychology backgrounds, organized a special issue of the Consulting Psychology Journal of Practice and Research in 2002. This collection offered a summary of training needs and proposed working definitions of consultation as well as competency standards. These authors also called for increased research and ethics to be applied to consulting. If indeed the area of consultation is unique from the process of therapy, then it stands to reason there should be a set of skills, related literature, research, and standards that can be employed to measure a trainee’s ability development. Continued APA workgroup involvement throughout each of psychology’s areas will address the uniqueness of consulting and guidelines to ensure quality delivery of services.


  1. Archer, J., & Cooper, S. (1998). Counseling and mental health services on campus: A handbook of contemporary practices and challenges. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Caplan, G. (1970). The theory and practice of mental health consultation. New York: Basic Books.
  3. Lowman, R. L., Alderfer, C., Atella, M., Garman, A., Hellkamp, D., Kilburg, R., et al. (2002). Principles for education and training at the doctoral and postdoctoral level in consulting psychology/organizational. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 54, 213-222.
  4. Shullman, S. L. (2002). Reflections of a consulting counseling psychologist: Implications of the principles for education and training at the doctoral and predoctoral level in consulting psychology for the practice of counseling psychology. Consulting Psychologist Journal: Practice and Research, 54, 242-251.
  5. Whiteley, J. M. (1984). Counseling psychology: A historical perspective. The Counseling Psychologist, 12, 3-109.

See also:

  • Counseling Psychology

Introduction to Consultation | Counseling.Education

Consultation and collaboration are unique skill sets that overlap with counseling, yet differ from counseling practice. On this page you will find the American Counseling Associations Consensus Definition of Counseling as well as a brief comparison of counseling, consultation, and collaboration.

Consensus Definition of Counseling

Before we can compare counseling with consultation and collaboration, we need to understand what exactly counseling is. The American Counseling Association has been working to form a unified professional vision for the future of counseling that includes licensure portability and a clear definition of counseling.

The widely agreed upon definition of counseling is:

"Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals" (Kaplan, Tarvydas, & Gladding, 2014, p. 366).

Spend some time navigating the 20/20 webpage and read through the article introducing the consensus definition of counseling, before responding to the following reflection questions.

For a more in-depth look at counselor professional identity, check out our unit on Professional Identity in the Introduction to Counseling class.

Consensus Definition Exploration Questions

  • What are your opinions regarding the consensus definition of counseling?
  • How is the Consensus Definition congruent with your views of counseling?
  • How does the Consensus Definition differ from your personal conceptualization of counseling?
  • What thoughts do you have regarding the way that the authors developed the Consensus Definition?

Comparing Counseling with Consultation & Collaboration

The following table provides some points of comparison between counselors, consultants, and collaborators. Keep in mind that there are multiple definitions of consultants and collaborators (Dougherty, 2014). Some of the primary differences between the roles are that counselors work in a professional to client relationship, consultants generally work in professional to professional relationships, and collaborators often work in professional to professional and professional to client relationships.

Comparing Counselors, Consultants, & Collaborators
Counseling Consultation Collaboration
Definition "Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals" (Kaplan, Tarvydas, & Gladding, 2014, p. 366). "Consultation is an indirect process in which a human service professional assists a consultee with a work-related (or caretaking-related) problem with a client system, with the goal of helping both the consultee and client system in some specified way" (Dougherty, 2014, p. 7). "Two or more people working together, using systemic planning and problem-solving procedures to achieve desired outcomes" (Curtis, Castillo, & Cohen, 2008, p. 890).
Provider Credentials Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) No required/standard credential No required/standard credential
Confidentiality Defined by laws & ethical standards Not governed by law or ethical standards, should be defined in informed consent (ACA, 2014, D.2.b) Not governed by law or ethical standards
Who has Power? The Counselor (e.g., the power to use mandatory mental health holds) The consultant has expertise that are sought by the consultee Power is shared among two or more collaborators
Ethically Required to Provide an Informed Consent? Always (ACA, 2014, A. 2) Always (ACA, 2014, D.2.b) No

Comparison Exploration Questions

  • How would you describe the differences between counseling, consulting, & collaborating?
  • When might you work as a consultant?
  • When might you work in a collaborative relationship?

Types of consultations

Depending on the goals and objectives that you set for yourself,
when addressing a psychologist, our work with you can be
several types:

Short-term psychological counseling (1–7 meetings)
Long-term counseling ( up to 30 meetings)
Long-term psychotherapy (more than 30 meetings)


This type of work is aimed at solving a specific existing problem, and not at finding its causes and sources. For example, instead of asking “Why is this happening?”, “How is this happening?” the main question becomes “What can be done?”, “Who can help me?”, “How to change the situation for the better?”.

I note that in short-term psychological counseling, the causes of the problem are relegated to the background, since in such a short work it is important to focus on the client's present and future.

Counseling is aimed at achieving psychological comfort and maintaining psychological health, at finding a solution to one specific problem.


Long-term psychological counseling is focused on partially changing the problem situation (for example, reducing anxiety, new ways to meet your needs, increasing self-confidence, finding new ways to express yourself).

This type of counseling implies that the psychologist can, at his own discretion, direct the overall course of work, helping the client to cope with the difficulty that is most relevant at the moment. In such interaction, there is an emphasis on improving the adaptive capabilities of the client.


To begin with, I would like to say that if in short-term counseling the therapist's attention is focused on solving a specific problem that has developed, then psychotherapy, in turn, is focused on deep changes in a person in the process of assimilation his own work experience. And such changes are reliable for the client.

As a result of such work, a person undergoes a transformation in his perception of himself and the surrounding reality, an increase in personal resources in relation to possible stressful events in the future.

You will be able to improve your interactions with significant other people,
understand yourself better, fulfill your needs
and increase your self-esteem.

Many people dream of becoming creative, but put off
for many years or simply do not know how and where to start.
Perhaps you already have a favorite pastime, but you are in a creative impasse?
A special format of consultations will help to cope with difficulties

“Learn to allow yourself to create!”

You will discover your creative abilities, feel inspired by
and believe in yourself.


6. Types and forms of counseling.

AT "Psychotherapeutic Encyclopedia" edited by B. D. Karvasarsky (1999) the following types of psychological counseling:

1) problem-oriented counseling that focuses based on behavior modification, analysis external causes of the problem. The aim of the work with the client is the formation and strengthening the client's ability to actions appropriate to the situation, mastering techniques to improve self-control.

2) person-centered counseling, which is aimed at analyzing individual, personal causes of problems, process overcoming destructive personal stereotypes, prevention of similar difficulties in the future. Here the specialist avoids advice as a matter of principle How does this remove responsibility from client for his own life and takes him away from the decision of internal, root causes of problems;

3) solution-oriented consulting. Here the focus is on activation. client's own resources to solve the problem that has arisen. Attention is drawn that the analysis of the causes of the client's problem inevitably leads to an increase in the latter feelings of guilt, which is an obstacle to the cooperation of a psychologist-consultant and client.

Using different criteria, there are many different types of counseling.

For example:

-on object specificity criterion talk about individual and group counseling;

• on elapsed time criterion (number of meetings) - about a single or multiple counseling;

• on criterion of the nature of motivation - about counseling in connection with personal customer request or consultation on call, direction;

• on content specificity criterion and applied methods - about counseling with a mandatory examination of the client or without it; using methods psychological correction or without these methods;

• on criterion of the nature of the tasks to be solved: age-psychological, vocational guidance, psychological and pedagogical, family, etc.

Also when classifying types of counseling character criteria can be used theoretical approach that psychologist-consultant works: cognitively oriented behaviorally oriented humanistically oriented psychoanalytic counseling etc.

As grounds for distinguishing species counseling can also be used immediacy criterion or indirect contact between psychologist-consultant and client: direct (face-to-face) counseling, indirect (correspondence, distant) counseling.

Among forms of psychological counseling is usually following:

• individual psychological; • group psychological;• age-psychological;• family psychological; • professional counseling;

• remote psychological counseling.

Main method of psychological counseling is advisory conversation. Consultative conversation is not a spontaneous process, it has its own patterns of development, its structure. Yu.E. Alyosha conditionally divides the conversation consultant with a client in four stages: 1) getting to know the client and starting a conversation; 2) questioning the client, formulating and testing of advisory hypotheses; 3) corrective action; 4) completion conversations [Aleshina, 1994]. consistent the change of stages is structured by time thus: stage I - 5-10 minutes, stage II - 25-35 min, III stage - 10-15 min, IV stage - 5-10 min.

Rollo May in The Art of the Psychological counseling" also highlights four stages of advisory development process, but their essence is somewhat excellent. The first part of the meeting establishing contact with the client, achieving rapport. Second, "main part of the meeting is confession." More "the stage of interpretation begins." And finally, the last phase of counseling - personality transformation is the end and goal of all process" [May, 1994]. Above attempts to describe the dynamics of the process psychological counseling allow us to conclude that structuring the advisory conversation is largely dependent on theoretical attitudes and orientation of the consultant.

Conversation is a group of methods that are carried out in a conversational style. The client may or may not know that the psychologist should be some specific system. Outwardly it seems that you just talk to each other about something. Do you really talk but the consultant has a clear intention solve the specific problem under discussion. Psychologist and client work together figuring out what the problem is and investigating her from different angles.

Conversation is an informal assessment method or clearing the area. Consultant asks questions about the area, and the client answers. This continues until until enough is collected information, or the area will clear up.

conversation can be used in counseling multiple purposes:

1. To identify charged regions for subsequent work.

2. To narrow the area and then apply to it more specific technique.

3. How independent process to clarify area for the client.

First application of conversation - usually at the beginning session, when the client seems to be nothing not worried. The purpose of the psychologist is not is to clarify something, but simply find what needs to be clarified.

Second application of conversation - entry into another technique. There is a common charged area, but you need to find out exactly what just happens to know what's going on with to do this.

How only the consultant gets enough information, he switch to more powerful technique.

Third use of conversation - as independent process. We start with a loaded areas. We bring it to completion with with just one conversation.

Target the process of conversation is that both the consultant, and the client understood the essence of the topic so that it will either clear up for the client, or he knows what to do with her. The goal is to reach a mutual understanding about what it is and for the client to charge for it a responsibility. In the process of achieving this topic can dissolve, and this will be the end of the process.

Conducting conversation, like any other process, counseling psychologist does not try find out what exactly the client's problem is. There is no one thing that he would be looking for. Joint effort of psychologist and client trying to bring new material to light, provide more points of view, loosen things up, and so on. What exactly what it means depends on the client.

essence conversation is not just about encourage the client to speak. Goes

double-sided dialog. The consultant helps the client clarify the topic by asking appropriate questions. He encourages the client to continue consider and describe what is here eat until you get results.

To help the client, the consultant can ask a variety of questions on the topic: possible causes, ideas, thoughts, opinions, information, problem solving, attempts decisions, failed decisions, sensations, feelings, means to correct the situation, improvement, attempts to get rid of, help, time, place, state and event, who, what, where, when and how, what is possible with this do, is it possible to take for it responsibility as it were without it.

And any other questions that help clarify what we are talking about. and

consultant, and the client should be interested in to find out everything about the topic. The consultant does not just choose what else tell the client to keep talking, he tries to encourage the client to discover something new.

The main thing, what not to do in a conversation is not be indecisive about what we are over we are working. The consultant tries to clarify original topic, whatever else expressed the client along the way. Psychologist always returns to the main theme. Any question is for to help the client consider the topic, and not to impose the consultant's ideas. The consultant can find out what the client said help him sum it up but he does not add his own ratings

1. If it turns out that the question under discussion is not suitable for one conversation only, the consultant switches to the appropriate technician:


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