5 Benefits of Consulting - The Affirmative Couch

5 Benefits of Consulting

Affirmative Organizational Development Consulting

Road signs saying 'inclusion, social justice, community knowledge, capacity building, accountability, collaboration, and organizational learning' on the side of a foggy forest road depicting how affirmative organizational development consulting can help mental health clinics become more affirmativeYour professional community is tasked with an ambitious goal: to provide healing, recovery, and wellbeing to the people you serve. You may be clear on the clinical problems your clinic or practice address, but are you clear on the populations you serve? Are you prepared to serve everyone who walks in your door? You likely want to be, but with more people in sexuality-, gender-, and relationship-expansive communities seeking treatment, you may feel like you’re unprepared.

Affirmative organizational consulting entails forming an empowered partnership with a team of professionals. These consultants are prepared to assist your clinic or group practice in becoming a leader in LGBTQIA+-, consensually non-monogamous-, and kink-affirmative community mental health.  Partnering with a consultant can help you with strategic planning, needs assessments, program development, resource development, and evaluation processes (Motes & Hess, 2006).  Affirmative organizational consulting is focused keenly on the needs of populations that are currently underserved both in your practice and the wider community in which you work.

Prudence Brown (1995), an urban housing and philanthropic consultant, describes the multiple roles a consultant can take on depending on your needs. A consultant can be a scientist, a judge, an educator, a technical assistant, a facilitator, a historian, a coach, a planner, a creative problem solver, a co-learner, a fundraising resource, a public relations representative, a writer, or an advisor. Most importantly, your consultant is your guide through organizational change, and a cheerleader who helps empower you to make the time and take advantage of the resources available to become a leader in affirmative therapy. This article will review some of the ways in which an affirmative organizational consultant can support your efforts.

1. Affirmative organizational development consulting focuses on the community and culture of your clinic, organization, or practice

Your clinic has a living, breathing heartbeat of its own.  Your organization has a history it has lived and a legacy it wants to leave. Establishing a community clinic or group practice takes work, patience, resources, and physical and emotional labor. Affirmative organizational consulting acknowledges all of that, and helps you expand your practice in new and important ways.

Sexuality-, gender-, and relationship-expansive community members have unique needs, and these clients can also benefit greatly from the unique ways in which you offer recovery, healing, and individual and community support. By spending time with your team individually and as a part of a group, affirmative organizational consultants can help you start feeling your heartbeat and establishing what makes you special, and using that to expand your practice to meet the needs of new communities.

2. Affirmative organizational development consulting connects you with the mission and values of your clinic or practice

Your mission and values should reflect the work that is currently happening in your organization.

  • Do your foundational documents still reflect the work you are doing today?
  • Is your organization’s heartbeat aligned with the rhythm of your documented organizational values?
  • Do these documents explicitly state that there is room for sexuality-, gender-, and relationship-expansive clients in your clinic?
  • Is it clear to someone who has experienced minority stress or community exclusion that they can find comfort and healing in your therapy rooms?

The Community Narration Approach (Morgan et al., 2020) connects the dots among your organization’s mission and values, the people who are delivering services today, and the impact you currently make in your community. This program evaluation tool engages all the members of your team in thinking deeply about your organizational community through storytelling, and processing the power behind those stories. Through weaving personal stories into community narratives, your organization can make collective decisions about where there is room to grow.

A person on a top of a mountain landscape with

3. Affirmative organizational development consulting helps you identify the common obstacles to affirmative care

Caplan & Caplan (1993) described four obstacles to providing effective mental health services: lack of knowledge, lack of skills, lack of confidence, and lack of objectivity. These limitations all pose ethical concerns according to the APA, and may serve as warning signs that it is time to consult with an outside professional. An affirmative organizational consultant can help you clarify where gaps exist in your knowledge base, skill sets, confidence, and objectivity in providing more affirmative care to the communities you are hoping to serve.

4. Affirmative organizational development consulting establishes an action plan for building your leadership role in new communities

Mission, Values, Narratives, Impact, Heartbeats. All really aspirational stuff. When we get down to business and develop goals, objectives, and activities that are congruent with your ideals and principles, you will need to invest time and possibly more money. A needs assessment will help clarify your priorities and next steps, and will suggest the resources to get there. This document comprises a physical summary of all your hard work, and serves as your guide to next steps in your clinic’s ongoing practice of affirmative therapy. A well-written needs assessment can also be an excellent resource when applying for grants and seeking foundational support.

Included in that needs assessment is an action plan. Your consultant has explored where you are, identified where you have room to grow, and figured out the resources you need to get there, and now it’s about putting it all together. Through affirmative organizational consulting, we can make clear the goals, objectives, and activities necessary to continue unlearning individual and collective biases and removing the hurdles to providing competent care. This will leave your team more confident, willing, and open to engage in the lifelong learning that becoming an affirmative therapist requires.&

5. Affirmative organizational development consulting develops a framework for capacity building and organizational growth

At this point you will have spent a lot of time working with your affirmative organizational consultant to align your mission and values, identify the strengths and room to grow with your whole clinical team, develop narratives around your practice to clarify which communities you are prepared to serve, and put a training and continuing education action plan into place.  Now it is time to invite more clientele into your clinical space. A consultant can help you review your marketing materials and start to get your name into the community as an affirmative organization. More business also means a plan for growth. Your consultant needs to have resources to help you with that too!

References

Brown, P (1995). The role of collaborator in comprehensive community initiatives. In J.P. Connell, A.C. Kubisch, L.B. Schorr, & C.H. Weiss (Eds.), New approaches to evaluating community initiatives: Concepts, methods, and contexts (pp. 201-25). Aspen Institute.

Caplan, G. & Caplan, R. (1999). Mental health consultation and collaboration. Jossey-Bass.

Morgan, K., Herbert, S., Dellens, M., Yang, C., Barr, T., Page, K., Finn, D., & Richards, J. (2020). A community narration assessment of master’s level psychology students at Antioch University Los Angeles. Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice, 11(3), 1-13.

Motes, P.  & Hess, P. (2006). Collaborating with community-based organizations through consultation and technical assistance. Columbia University Press.

Next Steps

Organizational development consulting is an investment. It takes time, energy, open-mindedness, and creativity to explore all the ways in which your practice or clinic can become more affirmative. Opening your clinic up to in-depth affirmative organizational development consulting also opens your doors to more members of diverse communities who will feel safer accepting your treatment and care. In your collaboration with The Affirmative Couch, you have a partner to help you every step of the way. If this is a longer term project for you, we can provide a needs assessment that will serve as a road map on your way! We are here for every question you have and every concern about current and future clients, and offer a library of pre-recorded content for your continuing education as well as packages for customizable training unique to your organization’s needs. Once you’ve established an affirmative practice, we will help you with your marketing to bring new clients to your door.  We will review your website and marketing materials to reflect all the efforts you have made in ongoing education and training in supporting sexuality-, gender-, and relationship-diverse communities. 

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