Collaborative Counselling – Working Together Toward Change

Posted by: Debbie Grove on May 11, 2011 9:18 am

How do you conceptualize ‘counselling?’ If you view it as a partnership, a team effort, a meeting of the minds, and an opportunity to work together to achieve change, in all likelihood, collaborative counselling is for you.

What is Collaborative Counselling?

A collaborative therapeutic environment and relationship is a place to explore problems, have candid conversations, brainstorm potential solutions, and reflect on alternatives (Bohart & Tallman, 1999; Duncan & Miller, 2000). Collaboration is about negotiating the goals for counselling and deciding on a pathway to reach them. This also means voicing different opinions, concerns, curiosity, questions, and ideas about the direction of counselling, what has been helpful, and what is missing in counselling and/or not working. In other words, collaboration is not intended to be a perfect alignment, rather, it signifies a partnership that is experienced as open, respectful, energized, and purposeful.

How is Collaborative Counselling Brought to Life?

Collaborative counsellors are flexibly and actively engaged in the change process with their clients (Bachelor, Laverdière, Gamache, & Bordeleau, 2007). Anderson (1996) asked her clients for their feedback and opinions about what was helpful in therapy and how to make it collaborative. For example, from her work as both a researcher and therapist, she highlighted that collaborative practice includes being ‘in sync’ with clients. Synchronization (Anderson, 1996) involves, among other elements, checking-in with clients about the timing and pace of counselling, what seems to be helping, and attentively listening for client-constructed meaning. When clients and counsellors are out-of-sync, this might suggest that counselling is moving too fast (or too slow). It could also indicate that what a client intended was misunderstood by his/her counsellor. A check-in is a great way to open dialogue about meaning and interpretation, getting back on track, changing a therapeutic approach, and/or re-evaluating goals and progress.

Ask Yourself…

Does collaborative counselling sound like a good fit for you? Is this approach to change a process that would help you? Asking counsellors, therapists, psychologists, physicians, and psychiatrists about their way of working with individuals helps new clients gauge if approach and preferred fit might be compatible. Getting to know your personal change process better is an excellent way to help evaluate the type of working partnership that you think will work for you or that that you want to try on for size.

One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to mapping out a course for exploration, discovery, and change. Every individual has a unique life narrative, strengths and resourcefulness, challenges, and ideas about change.

Anderson, H. (1996). A reflection on client-professional collaboration. Families, Systems and Health, 14(2), 193-206.

Bachelor, A., Laverdière, O., Gamache, D., & Bordeleau, V. (2007). Clients’ collaboration in therapy: Self-perceptions and relationships with client psychological functioning, interpersonal relations, and motivation. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 44(2), 175-192.

Bohart, A. C., & Tallman, K. (1999). How clients make therapy work. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Duncan, B. L., & Miller, S. D. (2000). The client’s theory of change: Consulting the client in the integrative process. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 10(2), 169-187.

The views expressed are mine alone and do not reflect the views of the CCPA.

Dr. Debbie Grove is a therapist working in Edmonton, Alberta. To learn more about her, visit her web site at

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

2 comments on “Collaborative Counselling – Working Together Toward Change”

  1. Athma says:

    Collaborative counselling is really a holistic initiative.

  2. Athma says:

    Collaborative counselling is really a good initiative.

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