Counseling is “a special type of client-provider interaction. It is a two-way communication between a health care worker and a client, for the purpose of confirming or facilitating a decision by the client, or helping the client address problems or concerns.” It addresses two of the essential elements of quality for FP: interpersonal communication and accurate, complete information for informed, voluntary choice. Research suggests that clients who understand the nature of their needs and treatment, and who believe the provider respects them and is concerned about their well-being, show greater satisfaction with the care they receive and are more likely to continue using FP. In addition, clients who get the method they thought they wanted are also more likely to be satisfied and continue using that method—making it imperative for the provider to listen carefully and work with clients on their decision. Fears and concerns regarding side effects are a common reason for discontinuation of FP methods. Ensuring that health care workers are trained to counsel clients on potential side effects, as well as to address clients concerns on side effects when they arise, are a key component of quality FP counseling.
Good counseling also depends upon good interpersonal skills, maintaining confidentiality and privacy, tailoring the interaction to the client’s needs, and providing enough information while avoiding overload. Ultimately, counseling needs to help clients assess their own needs, make their own voluntary and informed decisions, and ensure their ability to follow through with those decisions. As mentioned in the introduction to this TRM, the principle of informed choice is central to an effective FP program, and counseling is the primary tool for achieving this.
Key FP Counseling Resources:
- Postpartum Family Planning for Community Health Workers (ACCESS-FP, 2010). Provides all of the tools and materials needed to conduct a three-day workshop to prepare CHWs to counsel mothers, families and communities on PPFP.
- Counseling for Effective Use of Family Planning: Trainer’s Manual (EngenderHealth/The ACQUIRE project, 2008)
- The Balanced Counseling Strategy: A Toolkit for Family Planning Service Providers (Population Council)
- Introducing Systematic Screening to Reduce Unmet Health Needs: A Manager’s Manual (Population Council, 2008)
 Engender Health, 2003. Comprehensive Counseling for RH: A Participants’ Handbook. Page 26. http://www.engenderhealth.org/files/pubs/counseling-informed-choice/ccrh_ph.pdf (Accessed March, 26, 2013)