Counselling, having many different interpretations, can be taken to mean different things to different people, in different times and in different cultures. In keeping with a somewhat linguistically trusted understanding of the very word, according to the Oxford Dictionary, as a noun, counsel refers to advice; and as a verb, counselling refers to the act of giving advice. Yet, this synonymity between counsel and advice, is far from what people holding the profession of the aforementioned would consider accurate. In fact, and more often than not, professional counsellors would keep their practice and reputation as counsellors, far from the idea of advice giving. Instead, associations with concepts of “help” and “growth” in areas of the self and one’s perspective are much preferred by counsellors time and time again. And, despite the varied phraseology by different practicing counsellors, the concepts of “help” and “growth” stay central, where the matter of difference may simply lie in nothing more than semantics. Hence, the aim of this paper is to explore and, as far as possible, discuss a working definition of what counselling is, and how its nature is made up of counsellor-client dynamics in the form of a therapeutic relationship and empathic communication, amongst other factors.
Attempting to define what counselling is can be both difficult and fascinating. Difficult, because there has been, and still is no single agreed upon definition. As mentioned in the introduction to this paper, counselling means a different thing to different people during different times; and adding on, with different expectations to deal with different issues with different approaches. In short, how one views and chooses to define counselling is based on personal construct. We are a summation of our past, and this is what we should expect as a result if we each had to define what counselling is - a cluster of concepts individually, loosely and vaguely defined. What is fascinating though, is the little disagreement that counselling has its roots stemming as a human helping service, and is later, recognised as a profession.
However, with an array of “human helping service” professions, all having the commonality to ameliorate issues and improving the quality of life of individuals, families and communities, what sets counselling apart from the rest? In one fairly early interpretation, counselling was said to be “…basically a psychological process as a result of which a person’s personality and behaviour may be modified and improved, in the everyday and commonsense meanings of those words” (Holden, 1971, p. 21). The American Counselling Association website (2013), describes counselling as "...a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals". Such goals can be summed up to be the "everyday" of a person.
However, to some, counselling is not so much so for the...