As clients, how much do you really know what an effective counsellor is? Do you just take the services without considering these important questions? Are you giving your mental health in well qualified hands? It’s time to know your rights as clients and raise important questions. Only then, the counselling as a field will see a brighter tomorrow. In India, there is no legal body or association for governing the practice of counselling. This has unfortunately led to ineffective practices of mental health services by the people with or without a proper degree and background required. Only having ‘good intensions’ of helping doesn’t approve one of being a mental health service provider. Hence, there is a lot of confusion and misled information about the nature of therapy, role and activities of a counsellor, in the public eye. It is important for you to know what professional counselling is, so that you are in a better position to decode the real thing. Certain characteristics of an effective counsellor are given in the list below (Norcross, 2011; Skovholt & Jennings, 2004).
  1. Minimum degree of Masters in Counselling Psychology from recognized university.
  2. Effective therapists follow ethical codes like informed consent, maintaining confidentiality, given by ACA (American Counselling Association) which is a legal body governing ethical practices of counsellors.
  3. Effective therapists do not work on personal opinions or judgements, rather work on the basis on evidence based practises which have a strong research support.
  4. Effective therapists do not indulge in advise giving or guidance, but they try to make the client more independent in finding solutions on their own. They just work as path finders. They encourage clients to make new choices and changes in life.
  5. Effective therapist charges fees and meets the client only in professional setting, avoiding to have any dual relationships with clients. This ensures the professionalism.
  6. Effective therapists have an identity. They have sense of self, awareness of what they want out of life and what they are capable of being.
  7. Effective therapists are open to change and have flexible approach. They have courage to leave their comfort zone and adapt different kind of methods by going out of the way.
  8. Effective therapists are authentic, sincere and honest. They do not hide behind rigid roles. Who they are as person in their real life, reflects the same in their work life.
  9. Effective therapists appreciate influence of culture. They are aware of the ways in which their own culture affects them, their own personal values and beliefs and not let that come in a way of therapy outcome. They are sensitive to the unique differences various cultures show.
  10. Effective therapists can maintain healthy boundaries. Although they are fully present with the clients in the therapy session, they do not carry the problems of clients outside the work setting.
  11. Effective therapists have healthy interpersonal skills. They strive to create collaborative relationships with others, make their clients feel understood and heard.
  12. Effective therapists are accountable to their senior supervisors to discuss the cases (with maintaining confidentiality, and not discovering the identity what so ever) which ensures the clients well-being, and scope to improve in services.
  13. Effective therapists seek personal therapy to deal with own emotional issues, thus, knowing how is it to be on the other side of the table too.
I hope you all address these important issues with your respective counsellors and get the services you deserve.
Rasika Karkare

I am a certified therapist and have an experience of working with various psychological vulnerabilities for more than 4.5 years. I have been working with adults in the age range 18-40 years who present a wide range of emotional/mental health concerns. In my practice, I strictly adhere to therapies based on scientific evidence and value ethical guidelines provided by APA (American Psychological Association).