What Is Guidance and Counseling? (Nature, Scope, and Types)

Guidance and counseling are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they have quite different meanings and applications. While guidance refers to the process of helping an individual make informed decisions, counseling involves providing support to help someone overcome emotional or psychological difficulties.

Overview of Guidance and Counseling?

Guidance and counseling is an all-encompassing process that involves helping individuals, usually students, and clients, to gain an understanding of themselves and manage their personal, social, academic, and career development.

It is designed to support individuals in achieving their goals, making informed decisions, and overcoming challenges that may hinder their growth and development.

Guidance and counseling typically involve a range of techniques and strategies such as individual counseling, group counseling, career guidance, and academic guidance.

The goal of guidance and counseling is to help individuals develop a sense of self-awareness and an understanding of their environment which will enable them to navigate the complexities of life more prepared and make informed decisions.

In this article, we will be considering in a more in-depth way what guidance and counseling are and how they can benefit individuals in various areas of their lives even outside the school environment.

Meaning of Guidance?

Guidance can be defined as the process of providing advice, support, or assistance to someone to make important decisions in their life. This could include decisions about their education, career, relationships, and personal development.

The goal of guidance is to help individuals make informed decisions that are in line with their goals, values, and interests.

It involves providing accurate, relevant, and timely information and resources to help them understand the options before them and make choices that will help them in achieving their desired outcomes.

Guidance can be provided in diverse settings, including schools (which are the most popular), universities, career centers, and community organizations. It is usually provided by trained professionals such as school guidance counselors, career coaches, and life coaches.

Meaning of Counseling?

Counseling is the process of providing emotional and psychological support to individuals who are experiencing personal, social, or emotional difficulties. This could include issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, grief, relationship problems, and self-esteem issues.

The goal of counseling is to help clients overcome their difficulties and improve their overall well-being. It involves providing a safe and supportive environment where individuals can explore their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and develop strategies to cope with their challenges.

Counseling, just like guidance, can be provided in various settings, including mental health clinics, hospitals, schools, and private practices. But usually, it is a more controlled and confidential environment where the clients can feel safe 

Counseling is usually offered by trained professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors and it has more principles and ethics governing the activities of the professionals.

Definition of Guidance and Counseling by Different Authors

The Hong Kong Education Department (2012) defines guidance and counselling as “ a cluster of services all aimed at helping a person to understand “self” and to take appropriate steps in educational, occupational and life planning generally”.

According to Nwonyuku Kalu (2018), guidance and counselling means “to direct, pilot, or guide”.

Ndum and Chinwe Gilean (2013) defines guidance and counselling as “a family name for all the helping services within the general educational and community systems.”

Bobga Tita-Nghamun Johnson (2016) defines guidance and counseling as “cognitive educational services (within or outside the school system), that help people understand themselves, provided the client reveals accurate, reliable, and valid information about him/herself and his/her environment.”

Mikaye Oyieyo Dickson (2012) defines guidance and counselling to be “a process, whereby a person is helped in a face-to-face relationship”

Sani (2014) defines guidance and counselling as “a facilitative two way collaborative exchange of ideas with a supportive relationship that enables clients to explore their problems.”

Akinade (2012) defines guidance and counselling as “a process of helping an individual become fully aware of his/her self and the ways in which he is responding to the influences of his/her environment.”

According to Oviogbodu (2015), guidance and counselling can be defined as “a number of procedures in assisting an individual to solve his problems.”

Adebowale (2012) defines guidance and counselling as “an interaction or relationship between two or few individuals, the client and a counsellor, in a relationship of trust.”

Lastly, Egbo (2013) defines guidance and counselling as “a learning process in which a counsellor helps an individual or individuals learn, understand themselves and their environment and be in a position to choose the right type of behaviours that will help them develop, grow, progress, ascend, mature and step up, educationally, vocationally and socio personally.”

14 Differences Between Guidance and Counseling

Of course, guidance and counseling have some similarities (which we will consider later on) and they are mostly done together, but there is still a thin line of difference between them. The primary difference between guidance and counseling is their focus.

Below are some differences between guidance and counseling.

1.GoalsAims at helping clients make more informed decisionsAims at helping clients overcome emotional and psychological
2.Approach to IssuesMajorly PreventiveMajorly Corrective or Remedial
3.EnvironmentCan be offered in a more open and less structured environmentMust be offered in a controlled and stimulating environment
4.PersonnelRequires fewer qualifications and training to offer guidanceRequires more specialized training and experience to provide counseling
5.ConfidentialityLess confidentiality is requiredHigh-level confidentiality is required
6.Investigation into issuesTakes a less dig into the root causes of clients’ issuesDigs deep into clients’ issues to find the root cause
7.ScopeMajorly used in educational and vocational settingsMajorly focused on affective domains of individuals (psychological, mental, emotional)
8.Activities of professionalGuided by fewer ethicsGuided by strict principles and ethics
9.Relationship between professional and clientMostly a once and for all relationshipUsually continuous and progressive
10.Interaction between professional and clientCan be done without back-and-forth interaction where only the professional speak (e.g on radio, TV, social, assembly grounds e.t.c)Requires back-and-forth interaction between the client and professional even when done online
11.Resolution offeredUsually broadUsually streamlined to each client
12.Resolution processAlways directive (what to do comes from the guide)Can be non-directive (what to do comes from the client)
13.TechniquesTalking is the primary technique used in guidanceThere is a wide range of counseling techniques used
14.TechniquesLess therapeuticMore therapeutic

5 Similarities Between Guidance and Counseling

  1. Both guidance and counseling can be done with individuals or groups
  2. Both guidance and counseling increase clients’ understanding of themselves and their environment
  3. Both guidance and counseling are aimed at helping individuals gain certain positive outcomes or avoid negative outcomes
  4. Both guidance and counseling are mostly done through talking and information sharing 
  5. Guidance and counseling are needed in schools for the wholistic development of students

Types/Branches of Guidance and Counseling 

Infographics showing the 3 branches of guidance and counseling

There are three types of guidance and counseling. They are educational, vocational, and personal-social guidance and counseling.

Educational Guidance and Counseling 

Educational guidance and counseling is the process that is aimed at helping students realize their full academic potential. It is focused on the educational needs of students and helps them make the best decisions in getting to their educational goals.

So ideally, educational guidance will involve placing the students in the right class after appraisal has been done, teaching them how to set academic goals, and guiding them through the essentials for academic excellence (study habits, retention, exam writing, etc).

It also guides them through challenges that may come up as their schooling progresses e.g difficult subjects, difficult teachers, decline in motivation, financial needs, and so on.

Note that educational guidance and counseling are not only done in secondary schools. Elementary and Tertiary schools also have educational guidance and counseling services.

Educational guidance and counseling can be provided by professional counselors, teachers, or other qualified individuals. It can be delivered through individual counseling sessions, group counseling, school guidance programs, workshops, or other forms of educational activities.

For in-depth study, read: What Is Educational Guidance? (Meaning, Scope, and Objectives) 

Vocational Guidance and Counseling

Vocational guidance and counseling is the second type of guidance and counseling and it focuses on helping individuals make informed decisions about their career paths and vocational goals.

Yes, vocational guidance is also called career guidance.

The entire process assists the client to explore their personality, interests, skills, abilities, and identify potential career paths that best suit them, and then develop a plan to enter into that career and make progress therein.

Career guidance also comes into play when individuals no longer find satisfaction in their current career path and want to pivot. It helps them identify if the time is right and guides them on what to do to cushion the effect on them.

Vocational or career guidance and counseling can be offered by career counselors, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and employment specialists.

It can be done through individual counseling sessions, group counseling, workshops, or other forms of vocational training.

For in-depth study read: What Is Vocational Guidance? (Meaning, Scope, and Objectives)

Personal-social Guidance and Counseling

Personal-social guidance and counseling is the last type of guidance and counseling and it focuses on helping clients develop the skills and knowledge needed to navigate personal and social challenges effectively.

It guides them in gaining self-awareness, building positive relationships, developing effective communication skills, overcoming anxieties, developing healthy coping mechanisms, managing stress or anger, building high self-esteem, and so on.

Personal-social guidance and counseling can be offered by school counselors, social workers, psychologists, and therapists. This is the mainstream kind of counseling that is found in society (outside school). 

It can be done through individual counseling sessions or group counseling.

For in-depth study, read: What is Personal Guidance? (Meaning, Stages, and Objectives)  

Scope of Guidance and Counseling in Schools

Infographic showing the 7 guidance programs and services

There are 7 core guidance services in schools. These are the services that the school guidance committees and guidance personnel offer to ensure that the school system develops each student holistically.

The scope of guidance and counseling in schools includes:

Orientation Service

This is the guidance program organized to get new students acquainted with the school environment and system. It is usually done upon admission into the school.

It gives them details of all activities and structures available in the school and how they can maximize them, as well as, avoid dangers.

Information Service 

As the name implies, information service is done to help the students get accurate, relevant, and timely information as they progress through the school, not just upon admission.

It gives them information about the society at large, not just the school, that may concern their development into useful citizens of the nation.

Counseling Service 

This is a person-to-person relationship between the school counselor and the students (either individually or in a group) to help them overcome psychological and emotional issues throughout their stay in school.

This is necessary for the affective domain of the students, just like sports and teaching improve the psychomotor and cognitive domains of students.

Appraisal Service 

Appraisal is the process of gaining an understanding of the students— their personalities, social behaviors, interests, and preferences, as well as experiences. This is a necessary basis in order to guide students towards making decisions best for them.

To understand better, see: Appraisal Techniques in Counseling (Functions and Principles)

Placement Service 

Placement is almost always a follow-up to appraisal. It is matching students with roles and environments that fit their person and will best maximize their potential.

This includes placing them in the right class, recommending the right career path, and even aiding their choices of co-curricular activities.

Follow up 

Follow-up service in guidance and counseling is keeping up with students after they have undergone one guidance service or the other to see how much progress they have made and how well-adjusted they are in their new placement.

Referral Service 

Referral service is done when the school guidance personnel cannot handle the case of the student before them. They then scout for the best hands that can handle the case on behalf of the student and refer them there.

Referral is one of the professional ethics of the counseling profession; where a professional does not claim to be able to handle what they can’t.

For an in-depth study, see: 7 Core Guidance Services in Schools (Scope of Guidance and Counseling)

10 Examples of Guidance and Counseling

There are various forms that guidance and counseling services can take. The central idea is giving some form of direction or help to the other person. Below are some examples of guidance and counseling services:

Career Day programs

Career day programs are organized in schools to give students information about the world of work, career options that are before them, obsolete ideas they need to dump, or new requirements for certain fields. This is an example of guidance.

One-on-one counseling sessions

One-on-one counseling service is what comes to the mind of many when they hear the word counseling. It is when a client brings up an issue, mostly psychological, to gain more understanding about the issue and find ways of getting out. Counseling could be directive or nondirective.

Group counseling

Group counseling is similar to individual counseling, only that it consists of several people who are seeking changes in similar or different situations. When the issues of the group members are similar, it is called a homogeneous group, and heterogeneous when their issues are not similar.

Orientation programs

Orientation is so broad that is one of the 7 core guidance since. It is giving new members of community information about the community so they can effectively adjust and adapt to that environment.

Community sensitization

Community sensitization is another example of guidance and counseling. It seeks to give members of the community information about a particular cause, societal trend, or issue.

For example, when agric extension officers go to rural dwellers to lecture them on an enhanced variety of a crop they already grow, that is guidance being done.

Radio and TV lectures

Guidance can also be done via the mass media— radio, TV, and even the internet. Educational or tutorial YouTube videos are guidance oriented. Radio programs on issues like HIV/AIDS or COVID, informing viewers how they prevent and manage them are also examples of guidance and counseling.

On-the-job training

On The Job training is targeted at new staff in an organization probably in a field they aren’t used to. For instance, a new customer service representative can begin serving in the position even if they aren’t so good yet.

But as they do the job, their supervisor keeps guiding them on how to improve their service for the period of the training.

By extension, apprenticeship is also an example of guidance and counseling.

Staff briefings

Every organization holds staff briefings where they keep their staff updated with the direction of the organization. This is another form of guidance. 

Press releases and conferences

Another example of guidance is press releases and conferences. They are targeted towards larger populations and are done either by the government or PR department of some organizations to give official and trusted information on issues arising.

Professional journals

Professional journals are similar in intent to press releases but they are targeted toward members of certain communities, especially professionals.

For example, the Counseling Association of Nigeria (CASSON) once released a periodic journal on the state and development of the profession in the nation.


This is a brief overview of guidance and counseling. As you continue to look deeper into all of the branches and scope, you’ll see how various other factors come into play to make the profession an actually helping profession.

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