The GP as an effective counsellor

General practitioners can be effective counsellors for the following reasons: 2

• They have the opportunity to observe and understand the patients and their environment.

• General practitioners are ideally placed to treat the whole patient.

• Their generalist skills and holistic approach permit them to have a broad grasp of the patient's problems and a multifaceted approach to treatment.

• They can provide treatment in comfortable and familiar surroundings including the GP's rooms and the patient's home.

• They are skilled at working as a member of a professional team and directing patients to more expert members of the team as necessary.

• They can readily organise 'contracts' with the patient.

• They have an intimate knowledge of the family and the family dynamics.

• They fit comfortably into continuing patient care with appropriate follow-up treatment programs.

To be an effective counsellor the general practitioner must first prepare for this role. Following a commitment to its importance the general practitioner can acquire the knowledge and skills for basic counselling by reading, by attending workshops and by discussing cases with colleagues who are skilled in counselling. 2 Well-developed interviewing skills are essential, as is self-discipline to appreciate one's strengths and limitations.

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