Empathy with Boundaries: A Roadmap for Accidental Counsellors

In certain industries and professions, staff sometimes come across distressed clients or customers such that they may inadvertently find themselves taking on the role of accidental counsellor.

This can be especially challenging when counselling is beyond the natural scope of that staff member’s role or skillset.

Our Accidental Counsellor workshop supports staff to successfully navigate these situations, enabling them to be able to respond and refer appropriately and safely. These skills help to protect both the mental health of the client, as well as better manage the exposure to psychosocial risk associated with this additional workplace burden.

Importantly, this program teaches key communication skills designed to support empathetic and caring responses, whilst maintaining appropriate boundaries and protecting one’s own mental wellbeing.

Key Facts

3-hr workshop

Small group delivery

Presented face2face in your offices or online.

Key Learning Outcomes include:
  • Improved capacity to recognise signs of distress and care for others.

  • Develop strategies for dealing with people in crisis and know when and how to refer someone for professional support.

  • Improved role clarity and boundary setting in interpersonal workplace scenarios.

  • Greater insight into one’s own stress response.

Key Workshop Components:

In these programs you will explore:

  • ROLE CLARITY. Learn to clarify the boundaries and expectations associated with your role, and reflect on the circumstances in which you may be called on to act as an ‘accidental counsellor’.

  • SIGNS OF DISTRESS Improve your capacity to recognise the signs of distress or mental illness, and to take appropriate supportive action. How to respond in the case of suicide ideation or threats of self harm is an important element of this section of the program.

  • RESPONSE STRATEGIES. Learn a range of solution-focussed strategies designed to offer a supportive, safe and appropriate care response to your client, whilst at the same time maintaining appropriate role boundaries and protecting your own wellbeing. A range of appropriate communication strategies are learned in this section of the workshop.

  • MANAGING PSYCHOSOCIAL RISK Learn how to protect your own wellbeing when you find yourself unexpectedly acting as an ‘accidental counsellor’. Learn about the nature of empathetic engagement, increase awareness of your personal stress responses and learn to counter vicarious trauma responses with a range of self-care strategies.


Previous participants of these workshops have commented:


Contact us today to discuss your Corporate Workshop needs.

“What fantastic training provided on mental health in the workplace and the importance of educating and empowering our staff on this topic. The team thoroughly enjoyed the workshop which was engaging and lead by the fantastic Katherine Wagner. Thank you Associated EAP.”

Philip Divilly, Managing Director, Quay Appointments

“We have done several training programs with Associated Employee Assistance Providers and have always found the service and consultation of an extremely high standard.”

Toni Williams, L&D Consultant, Sydney Opera House

“Katherine presented to our team of 40 staff at our annual staff symposium and it was absolutely fantastic. Katherine was engaging and really helped all staff members relate better to each other. We were so impressed we wanted her back for a conference of 150 medical practice managers which also went really well. Very happy with the resources provided by Associated Employee Assistance Providers who helped arranged both the above plus follow up articles. Highly recommended.”

Lucy Peters, Practice Managers Chair, Royal Australian & NZ College of Ophthalmologists

“Effective and caring advice delivered in an easy to digest method.”

Stephanie Hunt, Human Resources Consultant - Storyful

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