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Counselor Interview Questions

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Counselors help people overcome and manage various mental and emotional challenges. Counselor duties and responsibilities typically include diagnosing mental health problems, developing treatment plans for issues such as substance abuse, stress, anxiety and depression, and educating patients on various coping mechanisms.

When hiring a counselor, look for ​​relevant certifications, a non-judgmental attitude, empathy and strong interpersonal skills. Great candidates for your counselor role may also have experience in clinical documentation, a strong desire to help others, the ability to speak other languages and passion for psychology and social work.

Ask 5-10 of the following interview questions to get a better sense of a candidate’s counseling skills and experience.


  1. What is leading you to pursue a career in counseling? See answer
  2. What qualities do you possess that, in your belief, would make you a good counselor? See answer
  3. Have you ever had a case that was hard not to take home with you? How do you separate work and personal time to maintain your mental health? See answer
  4. Can you tell me about how you approach counseling treatment and how you individualize treatment for each client?
  5. What has been your greatest accomplishment with counseling a client so far?
  6. What would you do if you cannot provide the level of counseling a client needs?
  7. What types of clients and cases have you worked the most with? Have you worked with children, teenagers, families or clients with particular mental health conditions?
  8. Can you tell me about a time it took longer to help a client feel comfortable speaking with you? What strategies did you use to help them open up?
  9. Are you comfortable traveling to clients’ homes to conduct counseling sessions?
  10. As a counselor, how important do you think it is to maintain connections with other mental health professionals?
  11. What is your process for preparing for a counseling session?
  12. Would you be okay with working after business hours or on weekends based on a client’s needs?
  13. A client calls your business number at the end of the day. They sound distraught and they ask to meet with you. How do you react?
  14. Have you ever had to help a client’s loved ones understand their condition? Can you provide an example?
  15. Would you be open to hosting virtual counseling sessions for clients?
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6 Counselor Interview Questions and Answers

Q:

What is leading you to pursue a career in counseling?

A:

It’s important to get a good idea about a potential employee’s motivation for a job. This is especially true for counseling psychology in which a counselor has to have the patience and perseverance to work with difficult clients. A prospective employee should demonstrate a strong desire to help others better themselves using motivation and personal experience. What to look for in an answer:

  • A strong desire to help others
  • The motivation to follow a challenging career path
  • An understanding of what counselling entails
Example:

“After seeing some of my friends struggle with depression, I knew I wanted to help others have access to the counseling they need.”

Q:

What qualities do you possess that, in your belief, would make you a good counselor?

A:

There are many characteristics that make a good counselor, and it is important for a prospective counselor to be aware of these so that they may strive to implement them in themselves. This question tests an applicant’s maturity and ability to self-reflect as well as give you insight into their personality. Apart from being a good listener, candidates should mention patience, empathy or emotional intelligence as character traits they possess. What to look for in an answer:

  • Honesty
  • Self-reflection and introspection
  • Non-judgmental attitude and empathy
Example:

“I have excellent written and verbal communication skills. My multicultural competency and ability to see different perspectives enables me to meet people where they are. I’ve always been there to support those around me in their time of need and consider myself to be a very caring individual.”

Q:

Tell us about how you approach counselling treatment and how you individualize treatment for a client.

A:

If you want your counselors to provide customized treatment and not follow a cookie-cutter method, flexibility is paramount. This way, you can be sure your clients are able to benefit from a comprehensive approach to treatment that suits their needs and temperament. You know you can get this from your candidate if they talk about their love for the job and give you a spontaneous answer instead of a rigid and strict answer to treatment in general. What to look for in an answer:

  • Genuine interest for the unique attributes of people
  • Desire to continuously educate themselves
  • Willingness to consult with other counselors when necessary
Example:

“One of the things I love about my job is that each client brings a unique situation. I consider the ability to adapt and change to each client a healthy challenge for me, and I have always looked forward to it.”

Q:

What has been your greatest accomplishment with counselling a client so far?

A:

Prospective counselors should talk about how they’ve been able to help a client identify a problem in themselves they may have not yet been aware of and alternately positioned their perspective in order to provide successful counseling through changing the client’s mindset. Applicants should mention specific events and stories about clients they’ve personally helped. However, make sure they don’t provide specific details that would break client-counselor confidentiality rules. What to look for in an answer:

  • Successful counseling stories
  • A focus on helping the client discover something new about themselves
  • Respect for client confidentiality
Example:

“During an internship, I worked with a client who was struggling to accept their self-worth. After utilizing re-framing exercises, they were able to find traits about themselves that they valued. I attend counselling seminars and workshops whenever I can.”

Q:

What would you do if you are unable to provide the level of counseling a client needs?

A:

If a counselor encounters a client who they can’t personally help, it is crucial that they do not make the client feel as if they’re problems are unsolvable. Instead, they must explain to the client that the counselor doesn’t possess the necessary skills to help them and refer them to a specialist who has more experience with their particular situation. Prospective counselors should express how they’ll always work with their peers to help a client succeed. What to look for in an answer:

  • An approach that puts the client’s needs first
  • An inclination to work with specialists
  • A willingness to make the failure about the counselor’s skill set, not the client
Example:

“I would explain to the client that there are other counselors who may be able to help them better than I could and assist them with the referral process.”

Q:

Have you ever had a case that was hard not to take home with you? How do you separate work and personal time to maintain your mental health?

A:

Counselors work with a range of clients, including clients with mental illnesses and people recovering from traumatic experiences or life changes. Because of the nature of their job, counselors need to have coping strategies or habits that help them maintain their mental health. This question allows interviewers to gauge a candidate's ability to separate work from personal life so they can continue to influence positive change in the lives of others. The candidate's answer should emphasize:

  • Compassion for others
  • Acknowledgement of how the job can impact mental health
  • Example of work-life balance
This is one example of how a great candidate might answer this question:
Example:

"There was a particular case where a child lost both of their parents suddenly. It was challenging not to think about them throughout the day or during personal time. I had to remind myself that they had a support system in the form of extended family members, and I was fulfilling my role as a counselor to help them understand and cope with their loss. I've found that activities like running, gardening or cooking with family helps to restore my positive mindset and reminds me of all the beautiful parts of life."

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    Last updated: Apr 21, 2021