Employers place a strong emphasis on essential skills in the workplace. Essential skills are used in nearly every occupation, and are seen as ¿building blocks¿ because people build on them to learn all other skills.
Each profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skill is generally performed by the majority of workers in an occupation. The estimated complexity levels for each task, between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced), may vary based on the requirements of the workplace.
Family, marriage and other related counsellors assist individuals and groups of clients to identify, understand and overcome personal problems and achieve personal objectives. They are employed by counselling centres, social service agencies, group homes, government agencies, family therapy centres, and health care and rehabilitation facilities, or they may work in private practice.
- Lose income when clients do not show up for appointments and fail to pay for services. They reschedule appointments with other clients and review their terms of service with the delinquent clients. They absorb financial losses for clients who do not return for additional counselling. Some family, marriage and other related counsellors request retainers from clients who habitually cancel their appointments without adequate notice. (2)
- Encounter uncooperative and difficult clients who will not follow through with therapies and interventions and consequently fail to realize positive change. For example, addiction counsellors may encounter clients who deny they are addicts and exhibit negative attitudes during group therapy sessions. They discuss their concerns with clients, clarify expectations and work with them to understand and resolve their negative feelings. They outline clients' treatment options including termination of counselling and referral to other resources. (3)
- Decide to accept new clients. They consider whether they have the time and expertise to meet clients' counselling needs. They often limit their caseload numbers to be able to accommodate urgent requests from existing clients. Family, marriage and other related counsellors in private practice may also consider clients' financial means. (2)
- Decide to refer clients to other helping professionals and organizations. They consider clients' counselling needs and goals and the availability of suitable resources. For example, crisis counsellors may refer clients who exhibit intense and prolonged anxiety to psychologists for mental health assessments. (2)
- Select tests, counselling strategies and interventions to use with clients. They consider clients' problems, emotional needs, counselling goals and requirements for particular interventions. They question clients about their comfort levels and progress. Family, marriage and other related counsellors may also consider their own confidence and expertise when choosing particular counselling methods. For example, child and youth counsellors may choose to conduct intellectual quotient testing with children who exhibit attention problems to determine if they are bored. Psychoeducators may decide that clients are ready for group therapy. (3)
- Decide to terminate clients' counselling and therapy programs. They consider the effectiveness of the counselling offered, the benefits that clients will gain from continuing counselling and the ability of each client to maintain emotional health. They also recognize their own professional limitations in dealing with their clients' problems and make referrals to appropriate helping professionals. For example, vocational rehabilitation counsellors may discharge injured workers from workers' compensation programs because they are unable and unwilling to achieve their vocational goals. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing
- Evaluate the performance of other counsellors, practicum students and interns. For example, they may assess practicum students' communication styles and rapport with clients through direct observation and by listening to recorded sessions. They review students' case notes and read comments on evaluation forms completed by clients. They analyze students' engagement, analysis and closure skills in order to provide them with specific criticism. (2)
- Assess clients' mental and emotional health. They interview clients directly and review information such as medical reports and psychiatric assessments. They observe clients' behaviours and listen carefully to what they are contributing and omitting from discussions to identify indicators of distress. Family, marriage and other related counsellors may use assessment tools to screen for problems such as substance abuse, depression, anxiety and abuse. For example, clinical counsellors may assess the mental health of clients who are suffering from depression. (3)
- Evaluate the effectiveness of counselling interventions. They compare clients' self-assessments over time and consider whether clients are making progress and resolving their problems. They observe clients' behaviours and overall demeanours to identify positive changes that indicate they are moving towards their goals. For example, mental health counsellors may look for improvements in clients' energy levels and moods to judge whether therapies for depression are effective. Couples counsellors may judge the effectiveness of mediation services for couples who are separated. (3)
- May assess clients' safety to determine the need for protection from abuse. They interview clients to gather information about indicators of abuse such as financial control, isolation, name calling and physical violence. They observe clients' behaviours and look for signs of harm such as bruises. They report cases of suspected child abuse to officials and make safety plans with adults who are at risk for abuse. (3)
Own Job Planning and Organizing
Family, marriage and other related counsellors plan and organize their own tasks and schedules. They usually schedule one to two hour sessions with clients. They adjust their schedules to accommodate urgent requests. (2)
Planning and Organizing for Others
Some family, marriage and other related counsellors plan and organize tasks for practicum students and other counsellors under their supervision. Those who work in larger organizations may contribute to organizational planning and development of operational policies and practices. They may participate in committees to coordinate care of clients, evaluate program goals and develop new counselling initiatives. Family, marriage and other related counsellors who are employed in non-profit agencies may also contribute to fundraising initiatives. (2)
Significant Use of Memory
- Remember names and details of conversations with clients in order to draw connections and identify patterns of behaviours and thoughts. They commit key insights to memory so that they can record information in their case notes after clients leave.
- May memorize the contents of case files in order to prepare for court testimony.
- Find information about mental and physical health conditions affecting clients. They search university libraries, consult textbooks, look up information on the Internet and speak with colleagues to gather relevant information. For example, a psychoeducator may look for information about Prader-Willi Syndrome in order to help a child develop effective social integration strategies. (2)
- Find information about clients. They interview clients, review information from intake forms and speak with family members, guardians and other professionals such as teachers, lawyers and probation officers. Some family, marriage and other related counsellors analyze test scores and other data collected from various assessment instruments. They use this information to help clients establish counselling goals and to guide counselling sessions. (2)
Other Essential Skills:
Working with Others
Family, marriage and other related counsellors work in a variety of contexts. Counsellors in private practice work independently to provide service to individuals, couples and small groups. Family, marriage and other related counsellors who work in social service, health care and rehabilitation facilities may work collaboratively with colleagues and other professionals. They coordinate job tasks with other members of clinical teams to provide complementary care to clients. Counsellors who work in supervisory roles may manage counselling teams and direct the activities of practicum students, interns and co-workers with less experience. (2)
Continuous learning is integral to the work of family, marriage and other related counsellors. They determine their own learning goals. They acquire new learning by reading books about counselling and therapeutic interventions and academic journals. They attend seminars, conferences and courses to upgrade their knowledge and counselling skills in specialized topic areas such as eating disorders, domestic violence, bereavement, mental health, couples counselling and sexual abuse. To develop their clinical skills and to meet certification requirements outlined by their respective professional associations, they seek out analysis and criticism of their practices from psychologists and other qualified supervisors. (4)