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Under a consulting - or consultation (from Latin consultatio ; associated verb consult ) - is generally a non-binding structured communication , so a consultation ( English consultation ) - usually orally and rare probably writing about (using electronic ) letters - understood, with a participant passing on information in order to increase the knowledge of the recipient. The aim of counseling can also be to induce the addressee to take a certain action or omission .

People who carry out this activity are called advisor and consultant or also (pronounced English) consultant ( borrowed from the English consultant ). The term consultant is also used in Austria and Switzerland .


The word advice comes from the Old High German râtan , which means "advise", "help", "advise" or "give advice". It includes advice as the judgment that emerges from consideration and addressed to one. Already in Old High German, advice was also used in the sense of advice or "advisory assembly", from which the composite words family council , city ​​council or town hall developed. The advice, in turn, is the “speech act directed directly at a person”. The word comes from the Old High German verb râtslagôn, which means “to draw a circle for advice”.


Participants in a consultation are the advisor and the person being advised , which can each be natural persons or organizations . The professional title consultant is not protected by law and is often used in voluntary process support. In business and management in particular, the term is often paraphrased with the approximate English equivalent of consulting , which is also not protected. In this sector includes in particular business consulting , management consulting and IT consulting .

Counseling can be understood as a scheme of communication that is relatively freely available and can be chosen in many different situations. It is the communication of a group that comes to a mutually accepted decision to act or wants to agree on the determination or assessment of a situation .


At the end of the consultation, the person receiving advice can decide whether to accept the advice and what behavior to choose now. This is what distinguishes counseling from instruction and supervision. While the counselor has to take a certain point of view into account in the instruction , he has to accept external decisions of the counselor when providing support . To distinguish further between information ( English information ) recommendation (English recommendation ) and advice (English advice ). Information is the disclosure of facts requested by the inquirer , recommendation is the suggestion of a certain behavior as in the interests of the person being advised. Compared to advice, the mere recommendation lacks the value judgment . Both can influence the will of the addressee, but this function is stronger in the consultation. The advice is a mostly non-binding, usually verbal recommendation.

Legal issues

Advice is the explanation of facts including the presentation and evaluation of decision alternatives . The advice includes both a self- assessment by the adviser and - taking into account the personal circumstances of the person being advised - a recommendation that leads to a buy , sell , hold recommendation or other decision by the person being advised. A free courtesy report as everyday courtesy does not entail any liability claims, even if it turns out to be false in retrospect. Free advice is an indication that no advice contract has been concluded. Not a paid consulting contract is a contract§ 662 et seq. BGB ), a pecuniary consultancy contract is a management contract as a service contract ( § 675 BGB).

If such advice is the subject of a business contact between the consultant and the person being advised and has an impact on the financial circumstances of the person being advised, the advice becomes a contractual obligation in a consulting contract. The parties do not even need to expressly state their will to conclude a consulting contract. A tacit advisory contract can be assumed if a credit institute conducts a consultation with a customer and can see that the advice is of considerable importance for the customer and that he wants to make it the basis for asset management. This applies in particular if remuneration has been granted or promised for the advice . As a result, the consultant has to assume liability for advice for any advice errors.

Types of advice

A distinction is made in particular the following advice types: investment advice , medical advice , labor market and vocational counseling , job service , educational counseling , drug counseling , partnership and marriage counseling , marriage preparation , energy advice , nutritional counseling , educational counseling , family counseling , Feng Shui consulting , finding processes , financial counseling , genetic counseling , fee-based advice , individual psychological counseling, person-centered or client-centered counseling , complementary consulting , counseling , mediation , MPU consulting , organizational consulting , Philosophical practice , policy advice , psychological counseling , legal advice , rehabilitation counseling , pension counseling , debt counseling , school counseling and school guidance services , crisis pregnancy counseling , pastoral care , safety advice , social counseling and social work counseling , Sociological consulting , Tax , strategy consulting , student counseling , supervision , Systemic consulting and consumer advice , traffic Psychological counseling , investment counseling , insurance consulting , continuing education counseling , youth counseling, migrant counseling, psychosocial counseling ( NLPt ), style and color consultation .

Furthermore, a distinction is also made according to the medium through which the advice takes place ( e.g. online advice or telephone advice) and the organizational or personal framework in which it takes place ( e.g. collegial case advice or consulting).

Is counseling (instead of actively giving advice) designed in such a way that individuals or groups are methodically accompanied by the counselor in order to find their answers themselves, to make changes themselves or to make decisions (without substantive recommendations on the part of the counselor), One also speaks of coaching (e.g. systemic coaching , mental coaching , individual coaching, personal coaching or team coaching).

Advice is often given in connection with the preparation of a cost estimate . In Germany, a fee is only due for cost estimates by special agreement .

Advice from a social science perspective

The sociological concept of counseling is distinguished by narrowing its meaning from what is called “counseling” in everyday language , as well as from closely related phenomena . Consulting in the narrower sense is a form of interaction that serves to transfer knowledge . The consultant can provide his clients with knowledge - in the organizational context mostly in a standardized ( best practice ) and partly commodified form. However, he is fundamentally dependent on the self-organization of the knowledge of his clientele , since advice must first be accepted and put into practice in order to be effective. Consultants can therefore modify the requirements for a successful knowledge transfer, but they can neither dispose of a large part of the success conditions nor create the necessary requirements on the other side. What becomes of advice is ultimately decided by the person being advised. However, the form of the consultation itself already imposes certain ( meaning ) limits on the consultation process .

Delimitation of the consultation interaction from the exchange interaction

Unlike the purchase or sale of goods, which can take place independently of people sets the counseling interaction either the mutual knowledge of people, or a trusted title or "call" ( reputation ) of the consultant / consulting firm ahead. Consulting is not an exchangeable product with precisely specified features; as a service , it changes in the course of the consulting process. What one understands by advice and what practical value it has, only determines the specific interaction.

Differentiation of counseling interaction from hierarchical interaction

From a sociological perspective, advice can only be of suggestive nature. When advice is formulated as an instruction , it changes the interaction. A typical threat to counseling interaction is bringing power into play. The form of interaction 'advice' includes both a certain degree of voluntariness in engaging in this form of interaction and a certain degree of freedom in the formulation and acceptance of the advice.

Reinhard Lay defines counseling as "voluntarily agreed, time-limited accompaniment and support provided through discussions in dealing with difficult tasks as independently as possible".

Delimitation of the consultation interaction from the representation interaction

Advice can also not be a representative interaction in which the advisor puts his advice into practice himself. Otherwise marriage counseling would be a very controversial matter. Those advised want or have to act. That's why they need advice. The action remains self-determined. This means that advice is always subsidiary , designed to help people help themselves. No decisions are made for others. Should this be the case in the corporate consulting business, then there is no advice, but representation.

Differentiation of the counseling interaction from therapeutic and educational interaction

In contrast to upbringing , counseling requires maturity , independence or even “expertise”, or at least “ sovereignty in personal matters” on the part of the person being counseled. If this prerequisite is violated, the consultation gets into difficulties because it can then no longer follow the principle of subsidiarity . This is what distinguishes the form of counseling from that of therapy : that it can accept non-sovereignty in its own concerns, and indeed presupposes and creates it in many forms.

Sociological Counseling Research

The first German-language approaches to critical counseling research or “sociology of counseling”, which takes the counseling process as the subject of research and examines counseling processes in organizations, come from Susanne Mingers (1996) and Hermann Iding (2000).

Examples of different types of advice

  • Factual advice: Discussion with the aim of filling gaps in knowledge, providing critical clarification in order to be able to choose between alternatives and make a decision (and be responsible) in the end. A conversation of this kind is based on the model of expert-layperson interaction. Factual advice can be provided by qualified individuals or in the context of a counseling center . Their spectrum is broad and ranges from general consumer advice to legal advice on very specific questions.
  • Educational counseling : conversation with the aim of supporting parents in difficult decision-making, crisis and conflict situations, for example in the case of developmental, adjustment and learning disorders of children or adolescents; so-called separation and divorce counseling is also part of it. In addition to parents, the target group includes children and young people. A conversation of this specific form takes place as a comparatively open communicative dialogue in which, among other things, the reasons and backgrounds of the problems presented are to be found and dealt with. In contrast to the purely factual advice, personal and intimate problems of those seeking advice are discussed here, which are rather withdrawn from general public communication. Discussing them with regard to new future opportunities requires a special advisory relationship and relationship structuring.
  • Debt counseling : Conversation with the aim of working out a viable path to debt relief , if necessary through appropriately formalized plans. For this purpose, information based on the pattern of technical advice is important. In debt counseling, however, there are various transitions to psychosocial counseling, namely when it comes to addressing the psychological and psychosocial backgrounds of the over-indebtedness that has occurred.

See also


  • Berit Ernst, Alfred Kieser : Attempt to explain the incredible growth in the consulting market . In: Rudi Schmidt , Hans-Joachim Gergs, Markus Pohlmann (eds.): Management sociology. Perspectives, theories, research desiderata . Rainer Hampp Verlag, Munich / Mering 2002, ISBN 3-87988-658-X , p. 56-85 .
  • Rudolf Helmstetter: Good advice is (un) modern: The perplexity of modernity and its advisors. In: Gerhart von Graevenitz (Ed.): Concepts of Modernity: DFG Symposion 1997. (=  German Symposia. Reporting volume 20). Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 1999, ISBN 3-476-01684-6 , pp. 147-172.
  • Rudolf Helmstetter: If I may give you some good advice: Experts for a successful life in the wrong one. In: Mercury . 66.9 / 10: Power and Powerlessness of Experts (September / October 2012), pp. 957–970.
  • Hermann Iding: Behind the scenes of organizational consulting. Qualitative case studies of consulting processes in hospitals. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2000, ISBN 3-8100-2559-3 .
  • Thomas Macho : In: Thomas Prechtl (Hrsg.): The book of advice and action: A reading book from three millennia. Diederichs, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-424-01470-2 .
  • Susanne Mingers: Systemic Organizational Consulting: A Confrontation of Theory and Practice. Campus, Frankfurt am Main, 1996, ISBN 3-593-35535-3 .
  • Thomas Muhr: Advice and Power. Organizational advice from a micro-political perspective. In: Michael Göhlich, Eckard König, Christine Schwarzer (eds.): Advice, power and organizational learning (= organization and pedagogy 4). VS, Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden, 2007, ISBN 978-3-531-15360-5 .
  • David Oels, Michael Schikowski (Ed.): Counselor. (=  Non fiction. Arsenal of the other genres. 7.1 / 2 [2012]). Wehrhahn, Hannover 2012, ISBN 978-3-86525-295-1 .
  • Markus Pohlmann, Thorsten Zillmann (Ed.): Advice and further education. Case studies, tasks and solutions. Oldenbourg, Munich / Vienna 2006, ISBN 3-486-57996-7 .
  • Adrian Steiner: Advice and advice. A little conceptual history . In: Navigations. Siegen contributions to media and cultural studies. 4,1 / 2 (November 2004), pp. 155-168.
  • Stefan Scheurer, Winfried Abele: I eat bread, I sing the song. Management Consulting - Art, Craft or Business with Fear. Orell Füssli, 2006, ISBN 3-280-05200-9 .
  • Haiko Wandhoff: What should I do? A history of advice. Corlin, Hamburg, 2016, ISBN 978-3-9818156-0-3 .

Web links

Wikiquote: Advice  - Quotes
Wiktionary: Consultant  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Advice  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Consultant  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: consultation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: to consult  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Consultation - Duden , Bibliographisches Institut ; 2017
  2. Consultation - Duden , Bibliographisches Institut ; 2017
  3. consultation ( Memento from February 17, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) (English-German) - Duden , Langenscheidt ; 2015
  4. Consultant - Duden , Bibliographisches Institut ; 2017
  5. consultant ( Memento from February 17, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) (English-German) - Duden , Langenscheidt ; 2015
  6. ^ Wilhelm Braune, Old High German Reading Book , 1875, p. 203.
  7. Friedrich L. Weigand, German Dictionary , Volume 1, 1968, p. 534.
  8. Duden: The Dictionary of Origin: Etymology of the German Language , Volume 7, 2014, p. 678.
  9. ^ Rainer Paris, Raten und advising. In: Sozialer Sinn 6/2, 2005, p. 355.
  10. Lutz Mackensen, Origin of Words: The Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 2013, p. 320.
  11. Peter M. Fuchs, Enrico Mahler: Form and function of advice. In: Social Systems 6/2, 2000, p. 359.
  12. ^ Kai Buchholz, Professionalization of Scientific Policy Advice? 2008, p. 36.
  13. ^ Rainer Schützeichel: Sociological communication theories . 2004, p. 277.
  14. Ingo R. Müller, Spanish Lawyers' Liability Law , 2010, p. 176.
  15. Otto Palandt / Hartwig Sprau, Commentary BGB. 73rd edition. 2014, § 675 Rn. 32
  16. Tobias Platzen, Civil Liability in the Case of Information Failure in Insurance Brokerage , 2014, p. 52.
  17. Peter Derleder / Kai-Oliver Knops / Heinz Georg Bamberger, Handbook on German and European Banking Law , 2009, p. 115.
  18. Tobias Platzen, Civil Liability in the Event of Information Failure in Insurance Brokerage , 2014, p. 53.
  19. BGZ 123, 126, 128
  20. ^ BGH, judgment of January 7, 1965, Az .: VII ZR 28/63
  21. As a basis for the following sections, see: Markus Pohlmann, Consulting as a form of interaction - perspectives, trends and challenges . In: Pohlmann, Zillmann: Advice and training. Pp. 32-36.
  22. See Markus Pohlmann: Advice and further education as alternative forms of 'knowledge transfer' in the knowledge society . In: Pohlmann, Zillmann: Advice and training. P. 61f.
  23. H. Arimond: Contemporary professional education. In: Psychological Contributions, Volume 9, o. O. 1966, p. 186.
  24. Reinhard Lay: Advisory competence in nursing . In: Nursing Education . No. 9 , 2001, p. 195-200 .
  25. ^ Luitgard Brem-Gräser : Handbook of advice for helping professions , Volume 2. 11. Edition, Munich / Basel 1993, p. 15.
    Helmut Willke: System theory II. Intervention theory . Stuttgart / Jena 1994, p. 30ff.
  26. ^ Thomas Muhr: Advice and power . P. 49.