As a potential or existing client you might wonder on how this voluntary involvement works and what it entails. In a nutshell, therapy is a collaborative agreement between a client and a therapist. This partnership is guided by ethical principles and professional best practices that aim to protect clients and provide them with the required information of their rights and responsibilities; and what to expect and how therapy works. I will try to summarize the process here and provide rationale why we as therapists need to spend some time with clients on informed consent throughout our work together.
As mentioned above, informed consent stems from the acknowledgement of the client’s rights, and freedom to determination to initiate, pursue, or discontinue therapy at all times. Informed consent is an ongoing process that begins with the very first interaction between the therapist and the client; even before the first session. It actually begins at the time of the initial consultation which many therapists provide free of charge. Client can obtain insight about the therapist’s professional background, credentials and theoretical orientation as well as their approach to counselling. Additionally, counsellors may direct you to their websites or publications to learn more about their work in order to better determine if you want to contract them. This transparent interaction is beneficial for the client and the therapist as both of them have stake in a good fit to work effectively and comfortably. As therapists we always encourage clients to play a proactive role in choosing their therapist based on various criteria; their needs, preference and style; just to name a few. Other important factors are cultural competency, as well as specific training. Obviously, this role that a client plays right in the beginning in finding the right counsellor is the spark to empowerment and resolution..
Once clients and therapists determine that they want to collaborate they identify the presenting issues that made the client seek counselling. This step only provides a general platform for the work as therapy is a process where we would continuously revisit our goals and plans requesting feedback and assessment. Often times clients identify other issues later in the process. Whether this happens due to enhanced awareness or enhanced therapeutic alliance is equally commended as both will become more equipped to resolve the relevant issues.
To reiterate, consent is an ongoing process of reassessing the client’s needs and obtaining their commitment to the work. This alignment acts as a catalyst to the efficacy of the mutual work especially if the identified goals were SMART; S-specific, M-measurable, A-achievable, R-realistic, and T-time bound. Another level of consent includes the approach of therapy as well as alternative approaches. The therapist’s role is to illuminate their clients with options. This further maintains the initiated trust required for effective work. That is why, it is essential to collaborate with you as the client and engage you in the process. This is based on the conviction of your autonomy, agency, and independence.
Needless to say that due to the intricacies of therapy work, it is almost impossible to predict the process with exact precision. It is a reiterative process that requires ongoing assessment and evaluation and continuous informed consent to obtain direction of this shared venture towards hope and healing
Ola is a Registered Clinical Counsellor offering a holistic approach to healthy relationships, life transformation and fulfillment.