34 counselling interview questions (with sample answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're considering applying for a counsellor vacancy, it's essential to spend time preparing for your upcoming interview. Interviewers for counsellor roles ask various questions to find out about your experience and background, alongside your work approach. Knowing what types of questions to anticipate and preparing answers in advance of your interview may help you to proceed to the next stage of the recruitment process. In this article, we look at 34 examples of counselling interview questions and provide some example answers to help you structure your responses for your upcoming counselling interviews.

General counselling interview questions

Many interviewers start a counsellor interview by asking general counselling interview questions to learn about you as a person, your approach to your work and your reasons for applying for the role. These are quite broad questions, which means you have a lot of control over how you answer them and how you want to lead the conversation. These interview questions may be similar to general interview questions in a lot of different fields. Some examples of general interview questions for counselling roles include:

  1. Why do you want to work at this organisation?

  2. Why did you become a counsellor?

  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  4. What traits do you think an effective counsellor possesses?

  5. Tell me about yourself.

  6. How would you describe your approach to counselling?

  7. How do you motivate yourself at work?

  8. Tell me about your views on confidentiality.

  9. Where do you see yourself in five years?

  10. How do you separate your work and home life?

Related: Occupational therapist interview questions

Questions about experience and background

When interviewing for a counsellor role, the interviewer wants to know about your experience as a counsellor, including your training and qualifications and your success in the role so far. These questions give your interviewer a chance to learn about your approach to your work and allow you to demonstrate your most significant achievements and strengths as a counsellor. Some examples of counsellor interview questions about your experience and background include:

  1. How did you train to become a counsellor?

  2. What do you do when you encounter evidence of neglect or abuse?

  3. What type of assessments do you use to assist your clients?

  4. Tell me about a client you worked with who you found challenging to help.

  5. What aspects of your previous job did you find the most challenging?

  6. How do you record client notes and other vital information?

  7. What's your clinical process when working with clients?

  8. How do you determine how to best help each client?

  9. What do you do when you can't help a client?

  10. Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work.

Related: What does a counsellor do? (With responsibilities)

In-depth questions

Interviewers ask in-depth questions during a counsellor interview to learn about your work style and to test your technical knowledge and abilities. Many in-depth questions require an answer that combines your previous experience in counselling with your theoretical knowledge. A strong answer to these questions demonstrates detailed knowledge of many of the issues that concern counsellors and how to apply this knowledge to your work. Some examples of in-depth questions for counsellor interviews include:

  1. How do you record mental health data?

  2. How much does your role involve collaborating with other health care professionals?

  3. How do you mitigate the risks of secondary trauma?

  4. What are your therapy specialisms?

  5. How do you choose what approach to take with different clients?

  6. What are the current leading causes of mental health difficulties?

  7. How do you ensure your clients are ready to conclude counselling?

  8. How do you handle upset clients?

  9. How do you ensure you treat each client as an individual?

  10. How do ethics play a role in your work?

Related: 14 types of counsellors (with primary duties and salaries)

Interview questions with sample answers

When preparing for interviews for counselling roles, reading example answers may help you to understand how to effectively structure your answers. Below are some interview questions for counselling roles, alongside their respective sample answers:

1. What is your biggest achievement at work?

If an interviewer asks you to talk about your biggest achievement at work, this is a good opportunity to demonstrate your strengths as a counsellor. A good answer to this question includes an example from your professional history that's relevant, impressive and unique. If possible, support your answer with facts and statistics or explain how your actions impacted someone else. Also, use the STAR method to structure your answer to this question.

Example: 'In my previous role, I worked with a client that previously worked with two other counsellors from my team. The client often avoided their sessions and didn't feel positive about counselling. Additionally, both of my colleagues made little progress with this client. I worked hard to help the client open up and, within a few months, they began sharing their issues a lot more with me and we created a mental health plan that the client still uses. My manager seemed impressed that I managed to achieve what both of my colleagues failed to do with this client'.

Read more: Interview question: 'What is your greatest achievement?'

2. What do you find most challenging about this career?

Working as a counsellor can be challenging and emotionally tiring. Interviewers often ask this question to see how you can overcome these challenges. Showing that you're aware of the hardest parts of the role and that you have the skills and experience to handle them well demonstrates that you're a good fit for this position. When answering, use an example from your past work if possible to provide a detailed and effective response.

Example: 'I became a counsellor to help people, but sometimes I find it challenging to stay positive when working with people who've faced significant difficulties. In my last role, I worked with a client whose past experiences reminded me of my own past trauma. I considered asking my manager to pass the client on to a colleague but, instead, I focused on how to help the client. Over time, I found that working through an emotionally difficult subject with this client made it easier to distance myself from this trauma and appreciate the value of my job'.

Related: Q&A: describe a challenge you faced and how you overcame it

3. How do you handle a client who struggles to open up?

Many times while working as a counsellor, you may experience clients who find it challenging to share their feelings or who are reluctant to participate in counselling sessions. One of the biggest challenges for counsellors is working with these clients, despite their reservations, and building up feelings of trust and mutual respect. If your interviewers ask this, they want to learn about your approach to these types of clients and your work attitude.

Example: 'I've worked with many clients that may not see the value in counselling and it does make the job harder. My approach is to be very approachable with these clients and to explain what my job is and how I can help them. Some clients are suspicious of counsellors or feel worried that the counsellor might trick them into saying things, which is why I try to be as transparent as possible, starting from the first session. This often helps clients to open up and, while the initial progress might be slower, this frequently leads to better results'.

Related: 10 essential counsellor skills

4. How vital is your own mental well-being when working in this role?

Working as a counsellor is an emotionally demanding job. Interviewers for counsellor roles may ask this question to make sure you have the stability and resilience to handle this role's pressures. A good answer to this question demonstrates that you understand the role's challenges and take steps to proactively protect your own mental health for the good of both yourself and your clients.

Example: 'I know that it's necessary to maintain my own emotional well-being, both for my own benefit and my clients. I struggled with this in my first year as a counsellor because I wasn't taking the time to create a proper separation between my work and home life. Now, I try to finish all my work in the office and make sure I set aside time every night just for myself. I also use my annual leave to recharge. Additionally, when I felt my own mental health suffering, I sought a therapist's help'.

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

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