The psychologist conducts special tests to explore various mental processes: attention, memory, intellectual abilities, thought processes, personality traits such as introversion, extroversion, self-esteem, the ability to establish and maintain relationships, etc. He or she also helps to solve interpersonal problems that arise in the family or at work.
Psychological counseling for adults is offered for people who want to overcome their present difficulties and learn to single-handedly tackle similar problems in the future. Psychological consultation is recommended for a person who experiences loss and grief or complains about feeling fear and anxiety about the future. It is also useful when a person faces interpersonal problems in the home or working environment (relationship problems with the spouse, children or colleagues) and experiences increased anxiety, fear, sadness or anger. Such emotions often have clear behavioural manifestations (fear reactions, anger reactions, psychosomatic disorders, and sexual problems), which psychological consultation is able to help with.
Psychological consultation differs from psychotherapy: it does not aim at providing a new personality structure but focuses on resolving situational problems and assisting the client in finding constructive solutions.
The number of sessions needed ranges from a few to a dozen. The aim of psychological consultation is to find out about the client and to encourage him or her to analyse and explore himself or herself and learn new ways of behaviour. Different counselling techniques are applied in the process.
Psychological counselling includes the study of the problem, its definition, the search for solutions to the problem, their assessment and application options, option realisation and the assessment of the achievement of goals that are set. A key role in all of these stages is given to the client: the consultant merely helps to maintain and structure the process. Effective counselling is a process carried out with the client, not for the client.
Counselling takes place in a separate room, with the consultant and the client seated opposite each other. Each session lasts 45 – 50 minutes. The frequency of the sessions (1 – 2 sessions a week) is agreed on in the initial meeting. The consultant makes a commitement to preserve confidentiality (the information obtained from the client in the course of counselling is not revealed to others unless confidentiality is limited by law) and form a strictly professional relationship with the client.
Commonly used counselling techniques include asking questions, giving support and encouragement, reflecting and generalising feelings, silence pauses, providing and interpreting information, and confrontation.
Psychological counseling for children is both similar and different from psychological counselling for adults. Typically, it is parents who seek help, not the child. Parents complain that the child is ‘aggressive’, ‘gets into fights’, ‘won’t listen to instructions and requests’, ‘creates conflicts at school and at home’, is ‘very shy’, ‘won’t speak to people except for family members’, ‘often cries’, ‘doesn’t know how to communicate with peers’, is ‘kept out of the loop by classmates’, ‘wets the bed’, is ‘a very picky eater’, is ‘school age but afraid to go to school’, etc. In the initial session a psychologist communicates with both the child and parents. The other sessions are usually given to the child. A session is 45 minutes long. The amount of time allotted to a conversation with the child within a session depends on his or her age (10 – 15 minutes with 5-7-year-olds, 20 minutes with 7-10-year-olds, 45 minutes with young teens). The remaining time is spent playing, drawing or taking part in any other activity that is dominant at the child’s age. The way the child plays reveals his or her inner feelings and allows the consultant to understand his or her inner conflicts. Counseling techniques that are used to consult children are the same that are applied when consulting adults but given in the language the child can comprehend. The consultant maintains and structures the process. The goals ahieved in the process are discussed and assessed with the child’s parents. The sooner parents seek counseling (advisably, as soon as a disorder appears), the more effective it is.