General principles of counselling

Adolescents are going through dramatic biological and psychological changes, and, as a result of these changes, seeking healthcare may be challenging and difficult for them. In the first instance you need to remember and apply the general principles and concepts of counselling before thinking of the additional considerations required to meet the needs of this special group.

Stop reading for a moment and think about the general guidelines for effective counselling.

What are the general principles that you should follow for a successful outcome to a counselling session?

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These are the important principles and conditions necessary for effective counselling:

  • Privacy. You need to find a quiet place to talk where you cannot be seen or overheard and where the interaction is free from interruptions.
  • Confidentiality. You need to make it clear that you will not tell other people about the discussions you have with your client.
  • Respect. You need to conduct the discussion in a helpful atmosphere. You should show respect for your client and be non-judgemental.
  • Time. You need to allow sufficient time so that the client can relax and feel confidence in you.
  • Keep it simple-use words the young person will understand.
  • First things first. Do not cause confusion by giving too much information.
  • Say it again. Repeat the most important instructions again and again.
  • Use available visual aids like posters and flipcharts.

A girl can't disclose her reproductive health needs in an environment where there is no privacy

A girl can't disclose her reproductive health needs in an environment where there is no privacy.

You need to remember these guidelines when you are counselling young people about sexual and reproductive health matters, but there are additional considerations because these are particularly sensitive issues for them. The first three points on the list above need special attention. The young person will not feel comfortable talking with you if they think their conversation can be overheard or if they think you might discuss their personal matters with someone else. If, in some circumstances, you believe it is necessary to share information with others (for example, to prevent further sexual abuse), you should explain why it is important and when, how, and with whom the information will be shared.

Many young people are unsure of themselves and lack confidence in their own ability. They will warm to you if you show them respect and demonstrate that you regard them as capable of making good decisions. Respect also assumes that the young person can be different and have varying needs that are legitimate and deserve a professional response. To be in the best position to help them you need to understand their feelings and the changes they are going through.

Last modified: Tuesday, 1 July 2014, 2:39 PM