Counsellors listen to people talk about feelings and problems, without judging or offering advice. Counsellors can help people better understand themselves and their feelings, solve problems, reach goals, improve relationships and feel good.
Counsellors have various backgrounds and qualifications. Some counsellors have formal qualifications in counselling and/or psychotherapy. Some are registered psychologists. And others have backgrounds in teaching, nursing, psychology or social work.
Counsellors offer a mix of one-on-one counselling, family therapy, couples therapy and group work for children and families.
Counsellors also often work with families who have children with disability.
Counsellors are employed in government-funded, non-government and community organisations. These include community health care centres, mental health support services and hospitals. They also work in schools and private practice.
If you or your child has mental health or wellbeing concerns, professionals like counsellors are there to care for you and your child. With the support and expertise of these professionals, you and your child can thrive.
Why you might see a counsellor
Counsellors can help you cope with difficult life situations like:
- grief and loss
- relationship and communication problems
- work or financial difficulties
- stress, anxiety or depression
- anger management
- the effects of addiction or abuse
- separation or divorce and blended families.
Why children and teenagers might see a counsellor
Counsellors can work with children and teenagers to look at:
- problems like school-age bullying, teenage bullying or learning difficulties
- social difficulties like friendship issues
- behaviour and emotional difficulties like anger, sadness, stress or worry
- traumatic events, violence or abuse
- grief and loss
- eating disorders and problems
- illness and hospitalisation
- family changes like parental separation or divorce.
You don’t need a GP referral to see a counsellor, but your GP or child and family health nurse is always a good place to start if you’re worried about your child’s health or development. Your GP can help you decide about seeing a counsellor and help you find someone who’s right for your child. You can also go to Australian Counselling Association – Find a counsellor, Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia – Find a therapist or Australian Register of Counsellors & Psychotherapists.
Before going to a counsellor
Before seeing a counsellor, it’s a good idea to find out about things like the following:
- Why you’re going: talk with your GP about why you or your child need a referral to a counsellor.
- Who’s going: is it appropriate to take your children? Or if children are old enough, they might want to see the counsellor by themselves.
- Appointments: do you need to make the appointment, or will the GP make it for you? Does the appointment need to be in person, or can it be via telehealth?
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the counsellor?
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment?
- Costs: how much will the appointment with the counsellor cost? Check whether you’re eligible for Medicare, private health insurance, or a workplace employee assistance program (EAP).
- Locations: find out where you have to go to see the counsellor – for example, a health centre, private consulting rooms, a youth centre or a school.
- Qualifications: is your counsellor a registered member of a professional organisation like the Australian Counselling Association or the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia? And does the counsellor specialise in the areas you need help with?
You might want to talk about these things and any other questions with your GP before going to the counsellor. You could also ask the counsellor’s clinic when you make the appointment. It’s a good idea to write down any questions you have, so you don’t forget.