An Overview of Systemic-Organizational Consultation for Professional Counselors

By Moe, Jeffry L.; Perera-Diltz, Dilani M. | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

An Overview of Systemic-Organizational Consultation for Professional Counselors


Moe, Jeffry L., Perera-Diltz, Dilani M., Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


This literature review integrates classic and recent scholarship on the framework of systemic-organizational consultation. The authors identify and describe the principles of systemic-organizational consultation, and assert that adoption of this model can help promote counseling as a profession. Basic professional counseling skills are necessary characteristics for consultants who seek to facilitate systemic-organizational change. Strategies for preparing human social systems for change are described. Counselors that integrate this model into their daily practice can realize greater awareness of organizational functioning. These and other implications of adopting systemic-organizational consultation are presented and discussed along with recommendations for future research.

Professional counselors are often solicited to act as consultants in order to help fellow practitioners' improve case-conceptualization skills (Brack & Brack, 1996) and to help human intra-group dynamics (Kuh, 1993; Lippitt & Lippitt, 1986). Counselorfocused publications address the consultant's various roles (Kurpius & Fuqua, 1993), counseling-specific models of consultation (Brack & Brack, 1996; Kurpius, Fuqua, & Rozecki, 1993), and ethics related to acting as consultants (ACA, 2005; Newman, 1993). Two general models, mental health consultation (Meyers, 1995) and systemic-organizational consultation (Lusky & Hayes, 2001), are widely accepted as essential frameworks for counselors acting in the role of consultant (Kurpius & Fuqua, 1993). Professional counselors seek mental health consultation as individuals in order to deepen the knowledge and skills necessary to better serve a specific client or student, a type of clientele (such as individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders), or both (Brack & Brack, 1996; Kampwirth, 2006).

Mental health consultation with individual counselors may be unwarranted if the policies or interpersonal dynamics of an organization appear to impede the functioning of system members (Bloor & Pearson, 2004; Knoff, 2002). Systemicorganizational consultation is an alternative model for such instances, and can be of benefit for consultants who interact with schools, community agencies, businesses, and other organizational contexts (Adelman & Taylor, 2003; Curtis & Stollar, 2002). The systemic-organizational consultation framework, instead of focusing on individual training and remediation, is used to identify aspects of systemic or organizational functioning that may frustrate attainment of an organization's stated goal (Bloor &c Pearson, 2004; Dinkmeyer & Carlson, 2001; Kuh, 1993).

In this vein, we seek to provide a brief overview of the systemic-organizational consultation framework and assert that interventions at the systemic-organizational level help to expand the services that could be provided by professional counselors in a variety of settings (Davis, 2003). Though counselors may receive training in consultation at some point in their education or career, this review serves to act as both a refresher to the experienced counselor and as an introduction to counselors who may want to learn more about how to utilize their counseling skills in an organizational or systemic context. It is important to begin with a review of the assumptions of systemic-organizational consultation and to illumine how these concepts can inform the practice of professional counseling.

Assumptions of SystemicOrganizational Consultation

System Defined

The following definition of the term system and the related assumptions of systemic-organizational consultation are adapted from General Systems Theory as originally developed by Ludwig von Bertalanffy (Brown, Pryzwansky, & Schulte, 2006). A system is defined as two or more individuals who interact in order to achieve a mutually shared goal (Curtis & Stollar, 2002). This definition implies both dynamic interaction between the members of a human social system (i. …

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