What Is Indirect Counseling?

Question: What is the meaning of indirect counseling?

Is your question prompted by some incident in which you were told that you were being counseled this way? Our expertise is in communication-related work questions. We don’t claim psychological clinical certification; however, we have had considerable education in psychology. Based on that, the term indirect counseling dates back to the  work of Carl Rogers and others (1950’s) who advocated that those seeking personal advice are best served by not being told how to solve their problems but guided to reflect on causes and possible solutions to problems. 

A simplified description of his approach to counseling  is that “Rogers believed that for a person to achieve self-actualization they must be in a state of congruence. This means that self-actualization occurs when a person’s “ ideal self ” (i.e., who they would like to be) is congruent with their actual behavior ( self-image ).” 

Those who provide indirect counseling listen much and advise little. Their silence enables clients to talk and seek to understand  and to take responsibility for action. The theory is that in doing so they then learn how to manage and be accountable for themselves. You can find much more on this topic if you search the internet.

I hope this short answer helps answer your short question. If you study our Q&As, I think you will see we advice often is indirect–believing those seeking advice will learn how to cope and resolve difficult matters by taking responsibility for their share of frustrating workplace situations.  Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, my signature sentence, suggests that workplace matters are best resolved by those concerned taking the kind of approach Dr. Rogers proposed

William Gorden

Additional response from Tina Lewis Rowe: I expect you are doing a homework assignment, given the specific nature of your question. There are plenty of online sites with definitions of direct and indirect counseling, and those may be more helpful than we can be in a short response.

A short response is that direct counseling involves giving specific advice. Indirect counseling involves talking and listening to someone, so they can provide most of their own answers. It often starts with, “Tell me about your situation.” Then, it moves to, “What have you tried to do already?” Then, “What do you think are your options?” Then, “Which option seems best to you?”

There is more to it than those few questions, but you can see the idea. I think you will have more than enough information if you do some looking around the Internet.

Best wishes to you with your task!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.