Where is the counselling agreement?

     Before all else, we stick to strict standards of care that are expected of our industry, and sometimes beyond. Like many counselling practices, we ask clients sign a counselling agreement to show their understanding of our fair use policy, all the free services we offer, and what counselling is able to do for them. We feel it's important for clients to know their rights, our routines, and what fair expectations are placed on each party. 

     You can find the counselling agreement at this link. If you are a client with only phone access or limited computer experience, call and ask about our vocal signature process.


Who are you and why is the service free?

      Hi, I'm the founder of ACAWS as well as wesaytheysay.com, a website of social conscience and forward thinking. ACAWS is the method in which colleagues and myself outreach our message of understanding and supporting the needs, beliefs, and lives of our communities. We are recognised by professional associations and animal caregivers ourselves, meaning we know too well how much our loved ones can be the basis of the happiness in life. Pet grief therapists are not very common in Australia and I felt it was an area I was most interested in, having a history in donating to rescue homes, being aware and actively researching what animals mean to humanity, and having a few fur children of my own.

     We have recently expanded to include grief and injury/illness support for human family members, too.

     The service is free because I know often people need counselling, but don't have money to pay for it. After volunteering over five years with elderly and disabled people (since September, 2009) in a large organisation, I saw what a difference one person can make to another and found joy in working with my clients and helping them through difficult times. There were times I also saw how funding limits can turn away people who need help. I wish to assist those who are going through the trauma of losing someone they love, who meant the world to them and shaped how they did most of their chores. Anyone who has ever had to calm a dog because they were anxious from the vacuum, or make their pet's meal JUST RIGHT so they'd eat it, will know what I mean by animals affecting our daily chores! They are a labour of love which we wouldn't want to take a holiday from for one single day. 


Are there any limits to the service?

     Our only limit is to ask clients to be fair. We are a free service, which means we have limited resources, so if we're really busy and we are unable to get back to you immediately, be patient and know someone will contact you as soon as possible. If you have an emergency situation, please send us an email and we will seek out immediate care for you.

     Clients also need to let us know of cancellations as soon as possible, via phone or email, so that we can give the appointment to someone else to ensure we can cater to as many clients as we can. Other than those points, we aim to serve people in adjusting to their grief without hidden costs or strict limits of time.

     Professionally, we can offer confidentiality unless the client falls into the scenarios that our professional associations have ethics we must follow. Clients who present with severe mental illnesses, suicidal planning, homicidal intentions, or fully-functioning substance abuse might be referred elsewhere to ensure a higher level of expertise is provided. However, it's only in circumstances where the issue has caused daily life malfunction that we will need to act on it. Mild cases can be monitored by staff and taken into consideration during treatment.

     We are able to cater to Australia-wide via phone and Skype, but also International clients in select countries via Skype-to-Skype. Our goal is to make the service available to as many as we can, offering free-call options to avoid typical phone charges for clients, particularly rural clients. See Contact page for more details of what we offer.


What if I'm going crazy? I have all these weird symptoms.

     In grief or after a trauma, many clients report unusual symptoms, including weird dreams, hallucinations, flash-backs, among others that make them feel uneasy. Are you going crazy? Probably not. Part of our services is helping clients understand the grief process, why these things occur, and what can be done to adapt. We are not interested in labeling people as "crazy" or "sane," but more "functioning" or "requires more help." We are not in the business of judgments, only acceptance and helping clients address their issues with the right level of care.


What viewpoint do counsellors use? 

     As stated above, we cater to the client at hand. We do not focus on a particular type of counselling, as we have an indicative approach, meaning the methods we use will depend on the client and what their case suggests is best for them. We work in a trauma-informed approach, where we understand trauma as part of life that works on a continuum, rather than a phenomenon that is remote. Life is full of difficult situations and we assist clients in understanding their connection with pain and how they navigate through it as whole persons within their own boundaries.

     We welcome clients to tell us what they are uncomfortable with, or would like to avoid in counselling. Are you more an introvert? Do you have difficulties speaking your pain, but can write it down well? We want to understand our client's intricacies and work with those to help them through their journey of grief.


Are counsellors regularly checked and monitored for quality control and effective practice?

     We only use counsellors who are registered with the Australian Counselling Association. Part of their maintaining that reputable registration is abiding by ongoing professional development (OPD), meaning they have to attend 25 points (up to 25 hours) or more of extra education in their field per year, as well as spend a minimum of 10 hours per year in supervision, where a trained senior is to assess their skills, efficacy, personal biases and influences, and stress management, and maintain personal mental health themselves, among other factors that can affect the quality of service. 

     We also choose counsellors of diploma-level or higher, meaning staff have completed a minimum of at least two years training in counselling and acceptable modalities. They have attended Registered Training Organisations where education is of a superior level. It is also preferred that therapists are trained in several disciplines of counselling and can handle a competency-based eclectic approach.


Are there any costs later on? Are there hidden costs?

     There are no costs as this is a volunteer-developed service. We do not charge for appointments, immediate care, or email follow-ups. We are in the interest of helping others without cost. Phone calls to us may cost you typical rates from your phone provider, but we do not charge additionally, nor does our number charge on a per-minute basis or any excess connection fee. If money is a factor, you can inquire about our Skype-to-Skype service, or call-backs if you are able to supply a landline number, which will bring your call costs to nil.


What rights does a client have? 

     Because we stick to the code of Ethics set by The Australian Counselling Association, clients have a number of rights. If you feel any of your rights were disregarded, please contact us with detailed information on what code was broken and how. Client rights are:

- to receive effective, competent counselling in their grief and related issues that affect how they are handling their situations.

- to have a voice in how they are counselled, with the ability to veto any exercises, disciplines of counselling, or topics they are not comfortable with. Treatment plans are tailor made depending on the client's situation, personal affect, and requests and goals of the therapy.

- to be offered a confidential service, where counsellors will not repeat what is told to them, unless clients show a severe disorder or lack of responsibility of actions which might result in injury to themselves or others. In this case, information about the case will be given to another professional who is trained for their specific needs. Counsellors will inform the client first and aim to get permission to pass on the details to the required professional.

- getting treatment for their grief without being harrassed by the counsellor, verbally, sexually or any other way. Counsellors are not permitted to have personal relationships with clients, as the Code of ethics state. If the counsellor does not recognise the client on a public outing, as we are a phone-only service, then this is not knowingly breaking the ethical codes. In small towns where a counsellor might already know the client, this is allowed, however, both parties must decide how to keep counselling talk within the office and what precautions would be best for both parties to avoid others knowing of their therapy sessions or the contents of them. That said, it is advised that counsellors refer the client to another person to avoid potential risks of discovery by mutual acquaintances.

- to receive treatment without bias, discrimination or stereotyping. Counsellors are expected to ask clients their cultural beliefs and information in a way of understanding their life rules and expectations, but must not treat clients in a disrespectful, or degrading way. Because this is a service of grief and loss, our spiritual beliefs will be important so clients need to be prepared to explain their religion or beliefs and how they help them understand death and pain.

- to be helped to assess and complete their goals, learn more about the grief process, understand how to self-monitor their condition after counselling, and learn new skills to improve their future life. Counsellors will help clients to address their issues of death and loss, as well as how they can improve on stress management and problem-solving. 


     More information can be sought on the codes of Ethics at the ACA website


What is expected of counsellors working for ACAWS?

    As well as providing clients with the above quality of care, counsellors might also be advised to:

- refer clients to additional services, which must be chosen in a professional, researched manner. Counsellors must ensure the programs they are referring to comply to the client's needs, have room for new cases and are in the client's financial range.

- contact the service the client was referred to, to ensure the client got sufficient care, and that the referral was able to offer them a suitable placement. If the referral did not go through, the counsellor might contact the client to ask if they are still wanting additional services, which can be sourced from elsewhere, or if their issues are suitably settled.

- call an ex-client to ask them to evaluate their services and ask where their counselling might have improved, in the interest of wanting to focus their OPD on specific areas.

- record a session for professional improvement plans. However, counsellors must gain permission of a client before doing so. Clients who refuse can be rest assured no recording will take place. Tapes that are recorded are destined for the counsellor's supervisor for listening and analysing of effective skill usage by the counsellor, then destroyed as per the rules stated by the Australian Counselling Association. Recorded materials will not be left where curious minds might find them, or discarded without consideration to confidentiality.

- send a client their notes by their request for their own records, or for a professional or legal proceedings. Client notes will be sent out in passworded formats on DVD or CD. Clients can gain the code to match the disc at their following session or via phone. Counsellors will use secure methods to ensure it is the client asking for the code, and not other people who might pose as them.

- ask a client for the reference code of their file before discussing any materials of the case over the phone. Reference codes will be given to clients at the time of opening up a file for them at the first session, to be given to the client at the same time.

- advocate on a client's behalf with their permission.

- call emergency services on the client's behalf if there is a strong case of evidence that the client might be in danger, such as domestic violence, losing consciousness during a session due to a known health condition, or the client has suicidal tendencies and has not appeared at their session without prior notice of lateness or cancellation. We take the safety of our clients and their close relations seriously.


     More information can be sought on the codes of Ethics at the ACA website

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Before you get a dog, you can't quite imagine what living with one might be like; afterward, you can't imagine living any other way. -- Caroline Knapp, author.

Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you're needed by someone. -- Martina Navratilova

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom. -- Rumi

Those that won't be counseled can't be helped. -- Benjamin Franklin

The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. -- Mahatma Gandhi

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