Lazarus said “Know your limitations and other clinicians’ strengths” (Dryden, 1991, p. 30).
As a counsellor, sometimes it is necessary to enable the client to find additional sources of support where appropriate. This is where counselling fits into a wider supportive network of organisations and resources.
There are a number of potential reasons for making referrals. These include:
The client has another need. (e.g. they want information or advice).
The counsellor lacks specific skills.
The client requires a specialist (e.g. there is an apparent mental health problem).
The counsellor knows the client beyond the professional basis.
The counsellor and client are not establishing a therapeutic relationship for some reason (e.g. the client is reluctant to open up to the counsellor; personality differences).
The counsellor has difficulty with the issues being discussed because they have some kind of personal meaning or take them outside of their comfort zone.
No progress is being made.
The client is partaking in disruptive behaviour that might be harmful to themselves or others.
Referral is not a sign of weakness or lack of skill.
It does not mean that you cannot provide a safe and therapeutic environment for the client.
However, being aware of possible referral agencies ensures that the client can choose the right option for them.
At the core of making a referral is taking action that is best for the client. The clients’ best interests should always be paramount.