DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a counselor, and I have become very successful at it. My problem is that my friends believe that I should be their counselor, too. On a regular basis, I get calls from people I'm close to -- and people I know peripherally -- asking me to help them handle their personal and professional crises. Because of the way they start in, I don't always realize that it's happening. We could be in the middle of a conversation, and then suddenly they ask my opinion about several things. Then I realize they are actually trying to get me to coach them. This has become overwhelming for me in several ways, not the least being that since I am not officially their counselor I am not approaching the encounter as I would with a client. How can I get these people to either hire me for my services and make proper appointments or back off entirely? I do not feel like I am doing things properly now, and it makes me uncomfortable. -- Uncounsel, Pittsburgh
DEAR UNCOUNSEL: Be very professional when you speak to these friends and associates. Tell them that you feel uncomfortable providing them with counseling for their various challenges, because this is not the professional way to do this. As a professional, you feel obligated to work with them in a formal way -- that includes making appointments, establishing a plan of action and charging for your services. If they are unwilling to do that, tell them that's fine, but you are unwilling to continue with the ad hoc consulting. You will have to listen better to figure out when a friendly chat turns into an appeal for your professional services.