National Center for Effective Mental Halth Consultation

Practices Associated with the Consultative Stance

The ten elements of the consultative stance in the previous instruction reflect a theoretical framework, qualities of the relationship and interaction between the consultant and consultees, and a process for collaboration essential to effective consultation. These elements influence the practices associated with the consultative stance and the skills of the effective consultant in their effort to build the capacity of others to become therapeutic in the interest of the young children in their care and their families. The table below illustrates some of these practices and Do's and Don'ts associated with taking the consultative stance.

Practices Associated with the Consultative Stance

  DOs DON'Ts
Building relationships
  • Engage in a planned "entry" or introduction into the program
  • Be clear about your role and purpose
  • Recognize the influence of past consultation experiences (positive and negative) on relationships with staff/families
  • Take adequate time to build relationships and trust — listening, learning, and balancing the wish to be responsive and the need to gather information and learn about the program, staff, children, and families
  • Agree to an "unexplained" or "unanticipated" arrival in a program
  • Assume that program staff and families will automatically welcome you into their classroom/home
  • Move in quickly to "save the day" and respond to requests for help without a better understanding of the contextual factors (this may be difficult in a crisis situation)
Acknowledging and valuing the experiences of others
  • Convey interest in the experience of staff and families
  • Use direct questioning to learn about the experiences, decision, and understanding of program staff and families
  • Use "how" questions to reveal facts, the thinking process, and the experiences of others
  • Restrict interest to those "in charge" or at the leadership level (director, manager, teacher, etc.)
  • Dismiss the experiences of others as irrelevant
  • Ask only questions specific to the observable behavior of the child, family, or staff
Understanding different perspectives
  • Inquire about the program's philosophy, ideas of working with children and families, and program practices
  • Explore the expectations and experiences of staff, families, and others
  • Express your value for others' views, perspectives, and experiences
  • Assume that everyone sees the process and value of consultation in the same way
  • Expect to understand different perspectives through a single process or conversation
  • Avoid conversations about the influence of culture and community
Information gathering
  • Express sincere curiosity about the program, classroom, teaching approach, etc.
  • Use empathic questioning to encourage sharing of information
  • Use direct questioning to convey interest — not judgment
  • Rely on one or two sources for information about a child, family, or program issue
  • Gather only factual information without exploring feelings and reactions
  • Include the observations of others including (parents and caregivers)
  • Guide HS/EHS programs in their observation tool selection and practices
  • Address expectations of observations and assist program staff and parents to understand the relevance or meaning of observations
  • Notice the interactions among caregivers, caregivers and parents or families, as well as between caregivers (staff and families) and the child
  • Share observations clearly and encourage the input of others and generation of ideas related to the meaning of the child's behavior, the reaction of others, and a plan for intervention
  • Rely solely on your own 'expert' observations for decision making
  • Impose your choice of observations tools without considering the interests and needs of caregivers
  • Use observation to confer judgment or decide what is "wrong" with a particular child or the ways that staff or parents are "failing" to support the child.
  • Give more value to observations of either staff or families and parents.
  • Proceed with observation of a child without staff and family understanding of the purpose of or permission for the observations activities
Sharing ideas clearly and soliciting ideas from others
  • Express ideas in the context of your observations and initial thinking
  • Suspend judgment in order to understand the perspective of others
  • Listen and respond without critique, clarifying through "how" and "what" questions
  • Use theoretical language that may be unfamiliar to consultees
  • Dismiss ideas from others based on their role, their feelings, their affect
  • Hypothesize the meaning of a child's behavior or a program issue without including and checking back with consultees and their perceptions or ideas
Developing hypotheses in collaboration
  • Consider the multiple views of everyone engaged in the consultation process
  • Weave the information from these perspectives together in order to offer possible explanations for a child's behavior, adult relationships, or program functioning
  • Co-create meaning, interpreting behavior and developing hypotheses by synthesizing information and knowledge with consultees
  • Give immediate interpretation of a child's behavior or program situation without a collaborative process
  • Offer "expert" advice, naming the problem and the immediate solution
  • Hypothesize the meaning of a child's behavior or a program issue without including and checking back with consultees and their perceptions and ideas
Planning intervention in collaboration
  • Enlist the perspectives of others
  • Facilitate reaching agreement among all parties involved — on the goal, intervention plan, measure of success, and support strategies
  • Design the intervention to "fit" within the context of the program, classroom, home and capacity of each participant to do their part
  • Suggest strategies that you have used in the past, but in a different context
  • Assign roles and actions for those involved in the intervention
  • Impose an intervention plan that may be difficult to implement in the context of the program, classroom, home, and capacity of each participant to do their part
Supporting step-by-step change
  • Convey confidence in the capacity of others to achieve change
  • Notice and talk about the provider's or parent's strengths
  • Provide coaching and modeling to assist others in carrying out the intervention plan
  • Identify and respond to the subjective experience of all involved, using reflective practices
  • Provide a step-by-step written plan without additional supports
  • Limit follow-up conversations to how well the plan was implemented and avoid the feelings of consultees
Enduring setbacks
  • Empathize with the adult's experience, appreciating what staff and families think and feel
  • Acknowledge progress, no matter how small
  • Assure continued support and opportunities to regroup together over time
  • Inadvertently convey frustration or criticism
  • Assign responsibility or blame for setbacks
  • Exclude anyone from the process who has already been involved
Encouraging reflection
  • Participant in one's own self-examination — gaining support from a colleague or a supervisor
  • Assure consultees that everyone's perspective is affected by past experience — our beliefs, values, practices, and culture
  • Encourage self-examination and sharing of subjective experience of consultees within the trusting consultant/consultee relationship
  • Avoid looking at your own role in the consultative process
  • Assume that consultees will come forth and engage in a reflective process naturally without trust, support, and encouragement
  • Consider reflection a luxury or poor use of time during consultation services and supports





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Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development National Center for Effective Mental Health Consultation