Before I became a consultant myself, I used to be amused at how vague the term
“consulting” is as a job description, and I wondered what they actually do. Now
I know, of course, and in my case consulting essentially takes two forms. Most
commonly it means directly contracting with an organization to help it function
better as a human system. Sometimes I “assess” and report to the HR person who
hired me, or serve as advisor to a manager trying to deal with a personnel or
human relations situation. Or I might walk around and meet formally and
informally with team members in order to arrive at an informed assessment
regarding a simmering situation. I’ve been hired to facilitate a brainstorming
session, a “re-state our mission” meeting, or a retreat meant to produce the
Strategic Plan. I have also stepped into some very hostile situations, and
initiated mediating processes to clear the air.
The other form of consulting I do is more properly called “Case Consultation.”
This is where I use my LCSW credential to help caseworkers or bachelor-level
social workers bring best practices to their work with clients. I’ve been doing
this work for a long time, both individually and in groups, and I’m very
gratified that it’s become such a success. I really regret the low pay, burdened
caseloads, and discouraging lack of supportive supervision so characteristic of
today’s social service environments. So I’m fortunate to be seen as someone able
to consult, teach, and advise - as well as convey energy and enthusiasm for this
under-appreciated, difficult work.
I provide consultation to groups of caseworkers employed at agencies, as well as
work directly with individual caseworkers (or supervisors) who are trying to be
better at their jobs, avoid burnout, or navigate complicated situations at work.
I’ve found that “consulting” can be preferred to “coaching” in some situations
because the more general term better serves the immediate, as yet unidentified,
need – and isn’t necessarily focused on a particular individual. Consulting
really means utilizing my perceptions, experience, and communications skills to
help a client – individual or organization - learn and move forward.