What is decision based counselling?
Decision-based counselling is a model of non-directive, women-centred counselling that assists women through the process of making a decision about their pregnancy. Non-directive counselling allows a counsellor to support and listen to a woman’s concerns without pushing her one way or another. In pregnancy counselling, it’s a conversation where the options of continuing or terminating a pregnancy (also known as abortion) or adoption can all be discussed. While some women can turn to their partner, friends or family for advice, others might feel that they can’t do so, for a variety of reasons. These could include conflict over the decision with a partner or family members, a lack of friends and family close by, or a fear of being judged.
Whether you’re deciding to continue or terminate your pregnancy, choices surrounding pregnancy may be distressing. Sometimes you may face complex factors such as financial, emotional, physical or social wellbeing issues. Maybe you’re not sure how to process your thoughts or talk to a partner about it, or maybe you’re facing circumstances that make it harder for you to consider your options. If you’re not sure how to make a decision that’s right for you, it can be useful to talk confidentially to someone who is outside of your situation. It’s important you feel confident that you’re making a choice that is yours and is best for your situation.
In such situations, women can benefit from being able to access professional, non-judgmental and confidential counselling services that identify as pro-choice. Pro-choice means they can help women think through all of their options, without persuading them to choose one over another.
The importance of choice for pregnancy counselling
As with your options around pregnancy, you also have options about which counselling service to consider. It’s important to know a few facts before deciding who to call.
Counselling is not a regulated industry in Australia, which means any not-for-profit or free service provider can offer pregnancy counselling without licensing or registration.
Due to this lack of regulations there are several national and local anti-choice organisations that claim to provide ‘non-directive’ or ‘unbiased’ counselling services. Many of these organisations are funded by anti-choice entities from Australia and overseas. They will provide inaccurate medical information about pregnancy and childbirth, they will misinform women about the amount of social and financial support available to them, and they can be deliberately misleading about symptoms, processes and side-effects of abortion.
This is why it’s essential to research the organisation/hotline you’re calling. You have the right to not be manipulated. You have a right to receive information that is accurate and complete so that you can make an informed decision about what’s best for you.
Where can I find pro-choice, decision based counselling?
There are several organisations that provide free, pro-choice pregnancy counselling throughout Australia. If you are suffering with anxiety and/or depression and would like to speak to a counsellor, you can reach out to PANDA. The National Helpline PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia is a specialist not–for-profit organisation that is dedicated to perinatal mental health. They can assist you with a long-term mental health plan and refer you to an appropriate counsellor or physician.
You can also contact us. Marie Stopes Australia provides free over-the-phone decision-based counselling services to women facing an unplanned pregnancy and/or women considering termination of pregnancy. Our counsellors are specially trained to provide confidential, non-judgmental, comprehensive information about all available options, regardless of whether you decide to terminate or continue with the pregnancy.
We also provide a ‘Three-day Decision Making Guide’, which takes you through the decision-making process over three days, asking you to write down your feelings and reasons for both termination and continuing the pregnancy. On day three we ask you to prioritise your thoughts, feelings and reasons about the options, giving you a greater sense of the reasons you would actively choose to continue or terminate a pregnancy. We then suggest you undertake a visualisation exercise, imagining what the future will be like either having had a termination, continuing the pregnancy or choosing adoption. Often, one of the imagined futures will feel more possible or realistic than the others, meaning that this might be the option that sits best with you and your situation.
If you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy, or feel that you need to talk to a professional about the pregnancy options available to you, we encourage you to call us on 1300 401 926 to make an appointment to speak to one of our pregnancy counsellors.