What is Lay Counseling, and Why is it Important?

UPside’s emotional health lay counselling programme has offered free services since 2020. Since 2023 that programme has been re-imaged as ALONGside. How you might ask, does lay counselling differ from other forms of counselling or therapy?

“Lay counselling” is often misunderstood as it differs from typical counselling, where clients meet with licensed medical professionals for advice and guidance. Lay counselling involves non-ordained, trained volunteers who guide and support others under supervision. Lay counsellors maintain strict confidentiality, keep notes and files on their cases, and regularly receive supervision from higher qualified counsellors.

This first line of counselling immediately creates two benefits. Firstly, it makes more counsellors available to more people. Something that is at the heart of the UPside vision. Secondly, it alleviates the burden on pastors, friends and the professional medical fraternity to focus on their core competencies.

In South Africa, lay counsellors form the first line of contact for most people who “just need someone to talk to”. Making use of a referral system ALONGside counsellors are in a position to refer clients to professional medical support if the client’s needs warrant it and/or if the scope of the counselling challenge is outside their competency. Referrals are done with the client’s consent while maintaining agreed confidentiality and within UPside’s Code of Ethics.

UPside also offers training for Lay counsellors.

The original article can be found here.

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