Practicum Monday: counseling mistakes?

I’d like to compile a list of mistakes mostly likely to be made by novicecounselors. In the past I’ve written on some of the mistakes or foolish behavior of counselors and some of you have helped contribute stories like the counselor who fell asleep during the session, the counselor who ate a meal, who tried to set the counselee up with a son or daughter, the counselor who took phone calls, etc. Most of these mistakes wouldn’t be made by the typical counselor, even one who had never counseled before.

So, what are the most common mistakes of the novice counselor? Not sure, here are some I’ve observed:

1. Failing to collect enough data during the first sessionto assess matters of suicidality or mental status. Novice counselors tend to either drill too deep on one topic (and so miss other important matters) or stay on the surface and fail to ask questions they think might embarrass the client

2. Promising too much. We want the client to have hope and we hope they don’t see us as novice, so we promise the world. Such temptations lead sometimes to offering our phone number to call at all hours, to agreeing to meet outside of sessions, too allowing sessions to go beyond the planned limit.

3. Encouraging. Beginning Christian counselors sometimes fail to let the counselee sit with their pain. Instead, they trot out verses to comfort and encourage. Often, these passages fall flat without their intended result.  

4. Writing too much. Progress notes may look like novellas. When you don’t know what is important, everything is documented.

5. Going along with the parents. Novice counselors often seen kids and their parents. It is easy to become railroaded into allowing the parents to use the session to gang up on the kids. Novice counselors have a hard time managing the parents and the kids in the same session.

What mistakes did you make? Did you experience at the hands of a novice?

When I started, I hated the question about my age (I was 24 but looked younger). I tried all sorts of creative ways to illustrate my experience and to be vague about my actual age. I’m sure I never convinced anyone. They stayed because they didn’t want to start over. I should have just said (nicely), “your right, I’m young. We can either find you another client now or we can try the following intervention and if you don’t like what I’m doing, we can find you someone else then. What would you like to do?”


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, Psychology, teaching counseling

3 responses to “Practicum Monday: counseling mistakes?

  1. Lou Buses

    One list to review can be found on the web site
    Top Ten Counseling Mistakes by Dr. Garrett Higbee and Robb Besosa

    It is at the bottom of the home page in the middle.

  2. Carmella

    I appreciate the idea of owning our age. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to be under 30, in my first 5 years of practice, looking young, etc. It seems like honesty is the best way of handling it, remembering that everyone who is counseling at some point was new at it. …and that has to be ok.


  3. D. Stevenson

    Will you be my professor? Or supervisor?

    I save these practicum monday posts to re-read and reference. I’m glad for them.

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