I have recently added consulting to the list of services on my web site and I wanted to let you know what that means. This addition will not change my Psychotherapy practice at all. In fact, I have been providing these services for years. Until now, I never made these services explicit in any marketing.
What is a consultant?
A consultant is an expert who has the skills necessary to function in multiple roles depending on the needs of the person or the group. Though these services may be performed by a Psychologist, when consulting in this manner the Psychologist is not providing therapy. These interactions do not constitute treatment of any mental disorder and are not to be used as a substitute for professional advice by psychiatric, medical, financial, legal, or other qualified professionals.
Some of the specific roles a Psychologist acting as a Consultant may fill would include:
• Coach – observing, listening, motivating, troubleshooting, and facilitating the process of helping an entity achieve goals. Start-up businesses, non-profits, and young entrepreneurs find this action-oriented planning helpful.
• Researcher – collecting, organizing, analyzing, and distilling information for others in a format that is streamlined and comprehensive. Large organizations often need guidance to develop programming and and craft policies and procedures that are based on current standards.
• Problem solver – thinking and questioning critically to help others clarify problems and evaluate the optimal solution or resolution. Technical businesses often need an outsider to help them facilitate discussion and see the perspective they are missing because they are too close to the problem and lack soft skills.
• Educator – training others with new knowledge, skills, and insights about themselves or with content that will enrich their effectiveness. Helping organizations and individuals identify their deficits and find resources can enhance performance greatly.
• Expert – synthesizing, formulating, and advising via a verbal or written report the essential information regarding a specific topic. Providing expert testimony with objectivity for a variety of legal proceedings is one example of this type of consulting.
The process of Coaching individuals may be the consulting activity that is most commonly mistaken for therapy; but there are some important distinctions:
• In Coaching, the coach is aligned with what the client wants to achieve and elicits client-generated solutions and strategies. The coach holds the client responsible and accountable for meeting goals and creating outcomes. Coaches are very future oriented. In Michigan, there is no required licensing for Coaches.
• In Psychotherapy, a therapist assesses and diagnoses mental health problems and sets treatment goals based on an informed understanding of what is healthful functioning. The therapist bears more of the responsibility to achieve progress, or refer the patient for further/different treatment. Therapists will engage patients in discussion of the past to help address current problems. In Michigan, a Psychologist must be licensed.
Licensing for Clinical Psychology in Michigan requires a degree from an accredited program, a year of supervised internship, two years of post-doctoral fellowship, and competence on the National Exam. Though the exam is National, and the Michigan requirements meet or exceed what other states require, I am licensed to practice Psychology only in Michigan. This means that I and the patient must both physically be in Michigan when the services are provided.
None of the above listed consulting services, including coaching, have such restrictions. In fact, legal teams often bring in expert witnesses from other states and life coaches have clients all over the world.
The other differences between the consulting I do and Psychotherapy services are clerical. In consulting there may be a contract and fees are negotiated. Billing is done via invoicing, payment is classified as "professional services", and no Psychotherapy paperwork is utilized.
*Please be advised that though I am not providing Psychological services when working as a consultant, I am still a mandated reporter which means that I am legally required to ensure a report is made when abuse is suspected or observed in any setting, at any time.