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Role and Function of the

BY: Rose Ann Mecija

a) Counselor/ Motivator
Family Planning Counselor
Provides individual counseling to female, male and
adolescent family planning clients regarding basic
anatomy and physiology, human reproduction,
contraceptive methods, pregnancy testing,
pregnancy options, and appropriate referral(s).
Provides information to clients about establishing
and maintaining optimum health practices, safe
sex practices, HIVIAIDS prevention, violence
prevention and intervention, and routine health
care and screening recommendations.

Counselor Characteristics:
Believes in and is committed to the basic values and
principles of family planning and client rights
Is accepting, respectful, non-judgmental and
objective when dealing with clients
Is aware of her/his own values and biases and does
not impose them on clients
Understands and is sensitive to cultural and
psychological factors (such as family or community
pressures) that may affect a client's decision to
adopt family planning
Always maintains clients' privacy and confidentiality

Counselor Skills
An effective counselor possesses strong technical
knowledge of contraceptive methods:
Knows all technical aspects of family planning
methods thoroughly
Is prepared to answer contraceptive and noncontraceptive questions comfortably on subjects such
as myths, rumors, sexuality, STDs, reproductive and
personal concerns
Is able to use visual aids and explain technical
information in language that the client understands
Is able to recognize when to refer the client to a
specialist or other provider

An effective counselor possesses and is able

to apply good interpersonal communication
skills and counseling techniques:
Listens actively
Poses questions clearly, using both open- and
close-ended questions
Answers questions clearly and objectively
Recognizes nonverbal cues and body language
Interprets, paraphrases, and summarizes client
comments and concerns
Offers praise and encouragement
Explains points in language the client understands
in culturally appropriate ways

An important prerequisite for the
initiation and continuation of an FP
An interactive process between the
service provider and client; it allows
for information exchange and
support, so that clients can make
decisions, design a plan, and take
action to improve their health.

Essentials of Good
A good counselor is trained to:
Understand and respect the clients rights.
Earn the clients trust.
Understand the benefits and limitations of all contraceptive methods.
Understand the cultural and emotional factors that affect a clients
(or a couples) decision to use a particular contraceptive method.
Encourage the client to ask questions.
Use a nonjudgmental approach, which shows respect and
consideration to the client.
Present information in an unbiased, client-sensitive manner.
Actively listen to the clients concerns.
Understand the effect of nonverbal communication.
Recognize when she or he cannot sufficiently help a client and refer
the client to someone who can.

To be effective, counseling must be based on the

establishment of trust and respect between the client and
counselor. All clients have certain rights, including:

The right to decide whether to

practice FP
The freedom to choose which
method to use
The right to privacy and
The right to refuse any type of
The freedom to choose where to seek

The Counseling Process

When discussing contraceptive
options with clients, service providers
should briefly review all available
methods of FP. Service providers
should be aware of a number of
factors about each client that could
be important when selecting a
method. These factors might include:

The reproductive goals of the woman

or couple (i.e., the spacing, timing, or
limiting of births)
Personal factors, including the time,
travel costs, pain, or discomfort likely
to be experienced
The need for protection against STIs
and HIV

Steps in FP Counseling
The GATHER Approach
GATHER is a useful memory aid to help us to remember the basic
steps in the counseling process and to add structure to a complex
activity. It can be adapted to meet each individual clients needs.
The following are elements of a successful counseling session:
G = Greet client in a friendly, helpful, and respectful manner.
A = Ask client about family planning needs, concerns, and
previous use.
T = Tell client about different contraceptive options and methods.
H = Help client to make decision about choice of method s/he
E = Explain to client how to use the method.
R = Return: Schedule and carry out return visit and follow-up of

b) Service Provider
Should be competent in counseling for all
methods of FP and should have basic
counseling skills appropriate to individual client
Who are counseling for and providing FP might
encounter clients who are coming for FP
services, but have other needs as well.
Should be prepared to counsel clients about
sex and sexuality, fertility, childbearing,
prevention of HIV and other STIs, and PMTCT of

Provision of Contraceptives
Contraceptives should be provided to clients in
accordance with approved method-specific
guidelines and job-aids, by providers who have
been trained to provide that method. A
supermarket approach should be adopted; that
is, clients should have a wide range of methods
(method mix) from which to choose. These
guidelines recognize task-shifting as an important
mechanism for increasing access to services
(especially at levels 1, 2, and 3), and specify which
cadre of service providers may provide which
method, subject to appropriate training.

Follow-up and Referral

All clients who choose an FP method
must be informed of the appropriate
follow-up requirements and
encouraged to return to the service
provider if they have any concerns.
Clients that require or choose a
method that is not available at a
facility must be advised where they
can obtain the method. Providers
should follow the established referral

Record Keeping
All FP providers should maintain
proper records on each client and the
distribution of contraceptives. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
and the private sector also should
follow the Ministry of Healths recordkeeping and service provision

Supervision is an essential
component of program monitoring
and evaluation; it ensures that
guidelines are being followed and
clients needs are being met.
Facilitative (supportive) supervision
should be encouraged, and the
supervisor should be seen as a team
member who motivates staff and
guarantees the rights of providers

Service providers are expected to
have a consistent supply of methods
available in order to offer a choice to

Categories of FP Service
Many categories of people can be involved in
the provision of FP services after they have
received the necessary training and
instruction. Similarly, FP services can be
provided at various levels of the health care
system (e.g., from community to tertiary care
levels) and within facilities that are operated
by varying providers (e.g., public, faith-based,
private). However, certain standards must be
met before providers can offer a particular FP

Values and Attitudes

Attitudes, opinions, and beliefs (including
misconceptions among health service
providers) can affect the way providers interact
with clients. Everyone has a right to her or his
own beliefs, but health care providers have a
professional obligation to provide care in a
respectful and non-judgmental manner. Every
interaction between health care staff and
clientsfrom the moment clients enter the
health care setting until they leave the facility
affects the clients and has an impact on their:

Willingness to trust and to share personal

information and concerns
Ability to listen and to retain important
Capacity to make decisions that accurately
reflect their situation, needs, and concerns
Commitment to adopt new health-related
Willingness to continue using the facility
Ability to be agents of positive change in the

Clients Rights
Service providers should ensure that clients receive
adequate information regarding the services provided.
Clients need to be informed about the workings of the
SDPstheir opening hours, services provided, and costs
involved (if any). Clients interested in a particular
method need to know how it works and how to obtain/
use it, the importance of follow-up, information about
potential side effects and how to manage them, warning
signs, and the protection from STIs (including HIV/AIDS)
that it may or may not offer. Clients also need to be
informed about how to switch to another method if they
so desire.

Access to Services
All clients, including adolescents and
PwDs, have the right to FP services
at all levels of care. The SDPs should
be clean, well-organized, and
adequately supplied with quality
contraceptives. Clients should not
have long waiting times and should
be able to obtain the contraceptive
of their choice.

Informed Choice
Clients should be counseled on the
range of contraceptive options and
methods that are available at all
levels of care, and should be
provided with accurate and complete
information to enable them to make
an informed decision.

Safety of Services
Service providers should adhere to
infection-prevention practices and
client instructions for effective use of
the contraceptive method.

Privacy and Confidentiality

Care should be individualized and
discrete. Clients should be protected
from both auditory and visual
exposure. Client information should
be protected from access by anyone
who is not directly involved in his or
her care.

Dignity, Comfort, Expression of

Clients should be treated with dignity
and friendliness. Precautions should
be taken to ensure minimal
discomfort. Clients opinions should
be sought and their wishes and
perspectives respected.

Continuity of Care
The clients records and follow-ups
should be accurately and completely
documented to ensure appropriate
client management and clinical

Provider Staffs Needs

Supportive Supervision and
The work environment and facilitative
supervisory system should be
supportive and emphasize mentoring
and joint problem solving. The system
should help staff provide the best
possible FP services.

Information, Training, and

Staff should be knowledgeable and
skilled in providing FP, and have
ongoing opportunities for training to
update and maintain a high level of

Supplies, Equipment, and

Staff should have sufficient and
appropriate supplies, instruments,
and logistics infrastructure to ensure
uninterrupted FP services and the
safety of service providers.