130 – How to Set Boundaries as a Counsellor

130 - How to Set Boundaries as a Counsellor

Contracting with Your Supervisor - Considerations When Placement-Hunting

subscribe_itunes button small

In episode 130 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes discuss supervision contracts. 'Check-In with CPCAB' then looks at what to consider when looking for a placement. Finally, the presenters explore how to set boundaries as a counsellor, to prevent/manage situations where clients push the boundaries of the counselling relationship.

Contracting with Your Supervisor (starts at 1.00 mins)

The question was asked on the Counselling Tutor Facebook page of whether a clinical supervisor can increase their fee without warning supervisees. Ken and Rory talk about the acceptability of this.

As a commercial agreement, a supervision contract is seen as an intention to create legal relations. In drawing up and working within a contract, supervisors should model good practice to their supervisees.

It is inevitable that supervisors will sometimes need to raise their prices, for example to keep up with inflation, but they should ideally consult with existing supervisees about this or - as a minimum - provide reasonable notice.

Some supervisors like to build into the contract an annual review of its terms and conditions. The arrangement for how a supervisor would inform supervisees of any planned changes to the contract should itself be specified in the contract.

Other important areas that you may wish to check are covered in your supervision contract are what happens when your supervisor goes away, and when you have an urgent issue requiring immediate discussion and they are unavailable.

Do you have a question you'd like to hear answered in the podcast? If so, come along to our Facebook page and post it there. We choose all our questions for the podcast (including those we ask CPCAB) from those received through this group.

Check-In with CPCAB: Considerations When Placement-Hunting (starts at 10.35 mins)

Rory speaks to Kelly Budd (Head of Qualifications) at CPCAB (Counselling & Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body) about looking for placements as a student counsellor.

Sometimes, students ask why students can't set up in private practice to get their placement hours.

Kelly explains that student counsellors really do need the support and infrastructure of a counselling agency, where there is so much learning to be done.

Colleges are sometimes asked by students why it couldn't run its own placements. However, this would be seen as unethically close to the course provision, risking dual relationships and conflicts of interest.

Moreover, there is learning in looking for and finding your own placement. This process also allows individual students the autonomy to choose placements that fit their own values and interests.

Some Things to Consider When Looking for a Placement

  • A good starting point when looking for a placement is to think whether there is a particular type of client group or issue you would be interested in working with. Do your research on agencies in your area that might offer placements in this field, and then approach them in a way that is tailored to their organisation.
  • Don't just send out a standard blanket letter - this will be obvious to the recipients, who are unlikely to take it seriously.
  • In your approach, make sure you sell yourself - remembering too that this works both ways: the agency needs student counsellors too. As Rory reminds us, student counsellors - while not experienced yet in the world of counselling and psychotherapy - are seen as being at the peak of their learning arc, and so desirable to have within the organisation.
  • There are lots of different types of interview process: if you are invited to interview, you might like to ask what will be involved, to help you prepare thoroughly.
  • If you're unsuccessful with one application, try to learn from this and not get disheartened. It is all experience, which can be used to help you with your next one.

Last but not least, Kelly reminds us to try to enjoy the interesting process of placement-hunting!

For more information about CPCAB, please see its website. CPCAB is the UK's only awarding body run by counsellors for counsellors.

Student counsellors - while not experienced yet in the world of counselling and psychotherapy - are seen as being at the peak of their learning arc, and so desirable to have within the organisation.

How to Set Boundaries as a Counsellor (starts at 26.10 mins)

Clients might try to push the boundaries of the counselling relationship in a number of ways - for example:

  • contacting the client a lot between sessions and/or out of hours
  • flirting with the therapist (in erotic or eroticised transference)
  • bringing up big issues near the end of a session (sometimes known as 'doorknob disclosures')
  • becoming over-attached (as a result of attachment issues)

Ken and Rory talk about how to set boundaries as a counsellor, focusing on the importance of having a clear contract in the first place. This really helps to set up professional boundaries from the start.

While contact between sessions and out of hours is less likely to be a problem for students given that they're working in an agency setting, counsellors in private practice can face these issues more.

Many choose to deal with this by having a separate work phone, which they switch off when not working.

If doing this, it is a good idea to have a message that tells clients who to contact if they are in crisis (e.g. Samaritans, or going to their local A&E department).


  1. Yvonne Cuthill

    What would you do if a client gave you a hug or a gift ?

    1. Rory Lees-oakes

      Be gracious, and consider if the gift was appropriate chocolates or flowers Ok – Jewellery needs some considerations very expensive jewellery would be a no

Comments are closed.