Counselling psychology is a psychological specialty that encompasses research and applied work in several broad domains: Counselling process and outcome; supervision and training; career development and Counselling; and prevention and health. Some unifying themes among Counselling psychologists include a focus on assets and strengths, person–environment interactions, educational and career development, brief interactions, and a focus on intact personalities.
In recent decades, Counselling psychology as a profession has expanded and is now represented in numerous countries around the world. Books describing the present international state of the field include the Handbook of Counselling and Psychotherapy in an International Context; the International Handbook of Cross-Cultural Counselling; and Counselling Around the World: An International Handbook. Taken together these volumes trace the global history of the field, explore divergent philosophical assumptions, Counselling theories, processes, and trends in different countries, and review a variety of global counselor education programs.
Counselling psychologists are employed in a variety of settings depending on the services they provide and the client populations they serve. Some are employed in colleges and universities as teachers, supervisors, researchers, and service providers. Others are employed in independent practice providing Counselling, psychotherapy, assessment, and consultation services to individuals, couples/families, groups, and organizations. Additional settings in which Counselling psychologists practice include community mental health centers, Veterans Administration medical centers and other facilities, family services, health maintenance organizations, rehabilitation agencies, business and industrial organizations and consulting within firms.
The amount of training required for psychologists differs based on the country in which they are practicing. Typically, a psychologist completes an Undergraduate Degree followed by 2 years of further study and/or training. While both psychologists and psychiatrists offer counselling, psychiatrists must possess a medical degree and thus are able to prescribe medication where psychologists are not.
Counselling psychologists are interested in answering a variety of research questions about Counselling process and outcome. Counselling process refers to how or why Counselling happens and progresses. Counselling outcome addresses whether or not Counselling is effective, under what conditions it is effective, and what outcomes are considered effective—such as symptom reduction, behavior change, or quality of life improvement. Topics commonly explored in the study of Counselling process and outcome include therapist variables, client variables, the Counselling or therapeutic relationship, cultural variables, process and outcome measurement, mechanisms of change, and process and outcome research methods
Therapist variables include characteristics of a counselor or psychotherapist, as well as therapist technique, behavior, theoretical orientation and training. In terms of therapist behavior, technique and theoretical orientation, research on adherence to therapy models has found that adherence to a particular model of therapy can be helpful, detrimental, or neutral in terms of impact on outcome.
A recent meta-analysis of research on training and experience suggests that experience level is only slightly related to accuracy in clinical judgment. Higher therapist experience has been found to be related to less anxiety, but also less focus.
Client characteristics such as help-seeking attitudes and attachment style have been found to be related to client use of Counselling, as well as expectations and outcome. Stigma against mental illness can keep people from acknowledging problems and seeking help.
In terms of attachment style, clients with avoidance styles have been found to perceive greater risks and fewer benefits to Counselling, and are less likely to seek professional help, than securely attached clients. Those with anxious attachment styles perceive greater benefits as well as risks to Counselling.
The relationship between a counselor and client is the feelings and attitudes that a client and therapist have towards one another, and the manner in which those feelings and attitudes are expressed. Some theorists have suggested that the relationship may be thought of in three parts: transference and counter transference, working alliance, and the real—or personal—relationship
Transference can be described as the client’s distorted perceptions of the therapist. This can have a great effect on the therapeutic relationship. For instance, the therapist may have a facial feature that reminds the client of their parent. Because of this association, if the client has significant negative or positive feelings toward their parent, they may project these feelings onto the therapist.
Another theory about the function of the Counselling relationship is known as the secure-base hypothesis, which is related to attachment theory. This hypothesis proposes that the counselor acts as a secure base from which clients can explore and then check in with. Secure attachment to one’s counselor and secure attachment in general have been found to be related to client exploration.
Counselling psychologists are interested in how culture relates to help-seeking and Counselling process and outcome. Standard surveys exploring the nature of counselling across cultures and various ethnic groups include Counselling Across Cultures by Paul B. Pedersen, Juris G. Draguns, Walter J. Lonner and Joseph E. Trimble, Handbook of Multicultural Counselling by Joseph G. Ponterotto, J. Manueal Casas, Lisa A. Suzuki and Charlene M. Alexander and Handbook of Culture, Therapy, and Healing by Uwe P. Gielen, Jefferson M. Fish and Juris G. Draguns
Janet E. Helms’ racial identity model can be useful for understanding how the relationship and Counselling process might be affected by the client’s and counselor’s racial identity. Recent research suggests that clients who are Black are at risk for experiencing racial micro-aggression from counselors who are White.
Counselors are to avoid receiving gifts, favors, or trade for therapy. In some communities, it may be avoidable given the economic standing of that community. In cases of children, children and the mentally handicapped, they may feel personally rejected if an offering is something such as a “cookie”. As counselors, a judgement call must be made, but in a majority of cases, avoiding gifts, favors, and trade can be maintained.Ethical standards are created to help practitioners, clients and the community avoid any possible harm or potential for harm.
Counselors cannot share any confidential information that is obtained through the Counselling process without specific written consent by the client or legal guardian except to prevent clear, imminent danger to the client or others, or when required to do so by a court order Counselors are held to a higher standard that most professionals because of the intimacy of their therapeutic delivery. Counselors are not only to avoid fraternizing with their clients.