Interview Questions: Talking about Boundaries in Counseling Relationships

Boundaries in Counseling RelationshipsCounseling involves two people – the counselor and the client – and the relationship between them is a special one. Counseling is a way to provide someone with an opportunity to deal with his or her difficulties and emotions.


However, even if the connection is a special one, there are limitations. There are critical boundaries that are based on the basic principles of the counselor/practitioner code of ethics.

When you’re applying for a job as a mental health counselor, interviewers will be interested in your knowledge about these boundaries and how you establish them. Why would they want to know?

  • They want to see how you handle your patients;
  • They want to know how knowledgeable you are about your profession; and
  • They want to assess your counseling skills and what you know about the dos and don’ts of it.

How will you answer the interviewer? Here are some guidelines that can help you.

1. Try to recall what you know about the boundaries; think about what you learned in your training, and list the main points. If you’re having a hard time remembering what you’ve learned, then this list from Corey (1996) might help you:

  • Beneficence – a counselor can accept the responsibility of helping the patient as long as the counselor will benefit from the counseling sessions. In other words, counseling is a give-and-take relationship.
  • Non-maleficence – this basically means you mean “no harm.” The counselor is obligated to avoid any activities or situations that will harm the client or cause a conflict of interest.
  • Autonomy – the counselor’s ethical responsibility to encourage the client’s independent thinking and decision making. The counselor must discourage all forms of client dependency.
  • Justice – the counselor, at all times, must provide an equal and fair service to all clients regardless of their age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, disability, and socioeconomic status.
  • Fidelity – the counselor’s duty to always be honest with clients in order to make progress.

2. When you’re providing your explanation, mention the important details and avoid including the unnecessary ones. Don’t get too broad; specify the boundaries as much as possible.

3. If you have an experience to share, recount your story so that the interviewer can catch a glimpse of you demonstrating these boundaries. Create an image in his or her mind that illustrates how you established the boundaries.

4. Show the interviewer your ability to abide by these boundaries – that you are respectful, professional, and dutiful. Make him or her believe that you’re reliable and trustworthy.

These are the guidelines you need to keep in mind in answering this question. Knowing these boundaries gives you an edge over the other applicants. It means that you have an appreciation for the importance of professionalism in the counseling profession.

Read 15821 times Last modified on Friday, 04 March 2016 14:19
Alan Carniol

Alan is the creator of Interview Success Formula, a training program that has helped more than 80,000 job seekers to ace their interviews and land the jobs they deserve. Interviewers love asking curveball questions to weed out job seekers. But the truth is, most of these questions are asking about a few key areas. Learn more about how to outsmart tough interviewers by watching this video.