7 Accidental Counsellor Tips Connect and Influence Without Burning Out

An Accidental Counsellor Can Be Any School Staff Not Trained As Counsellors But Often Find Themselves in Counselling Situations By Accident.

The problem I see in schools is the usual approach of helping people is not working well, takes a long time and the problem issue continues without improvement. The reason this is happening is because you are time poor and may rush to give advice and come up with the solution or remedy to alleviate the problem the student is presenting to you. When you rush to tell people what to do, their motivation for doing it lessens. Not only that, you are implying that the person you are helping is not capable of coping or finding an answer for themselves. Below I outline 7 tips and principles that help you connect and influence the person you are supporting without burning out.


7 Accidental Counsellor Tips

Connect and Influence Without Burning Out



  1. It’s all about you.

It's All About YOU!

This is all about you. What state are you in? Your mental and emotional state will influence your approach. You can get triggered easily by some of the things you hear at school. You need to focus on your own wellbeing and be aware if you are stressed or anxious. With awareness you can adjust your state. Otherwise you react unconsciously to the triggers around you and this seeps into your responses.


  1. It’s all about them.

It's All About Them

Listen to the person, match, mirror and pace their language, thinking and nonverbal communication. You can’t hope to influence a person if they think, “you don’t get me”. Enter their world, communicate and reflect back to them what you are hearing and seeing. You want to “get the yes” – that is when you respond to what they say, the person speaking says “YES! That’s right”! They feel not only understood but also calm and safe. With this trust established they are more open to be influenced the solution focused language and questions you have for them.


        3. Influence.


Avoiding pain is the number one driver of human behaviour. Followed by gaining pleasure. To influence a person you need to focus on pain. Specifically, what it’s like for them when their behaviour or circumstance occurs. This is about the person telling you rather than you telling the person. Ask, “What’s it like for you when (INSERT PROBLEM) happens?” “Is this something you are sick and tired of?” “Is it something you want to change?” Of course it goes without saying that the focus also needs to be on what THEY can do rather than what OTHER people need to do.


  1. Get their why.

Get their why

This is critical. Finding personal reasons for change increases motivation for the change. It’s their reason why that has them “own” the change. The usual approach of telling a student the reasons they need to make a change lowers motivation for the change. You need them to convince you.

“So why do you think this important?” “Why would you want to make this better?”

This is the biggest issue I see in “accidental counsellor conversations” in schools. The staff member outlines all the reasons the student needs to change and the student is a passive bystander not owning or being involved in the change required of them.


  1. Paint the picture.

Paint the picture

“Constructing a vision of a solution acts as a catalyst for bringing it about.” This “Solutions Focused” approach is an evidenced based technique that helps you influence the person to achieve what they say they want to achieve. When the person tells you they are:


  1. Sick and tired of the same thing (PAIN) and
  2. Tell you WHY they want it to change you help them by getting them to
  3. Paint a picture of the change.


Ask the person, “How would you like things to be?” Here you need to ensure that the picture is:

  • Within their control
  • Has specific and concrete behaviours (actions)
  • Is in the “presence of something rather than the absence of something”. For example rather than I won’t be stressed and anxious (won’t be is the absence) I will be more relaxed and having fun (is the presence of something) etc.


  1. Focus on one thing

Focus on one thing

When the person paints a picture of how they would like things to be there may be several aspects to it. It’s important that you help them focus on ONE THING.

Say something like, “Wow you have told me several things about how you would like things to be for you.” Then reflect back to them what they have told you and ask them if you have understood correctly. When they say yes, ask them, “So which one of these things you have just told me about do you want to start with”?


  1. Follow up

Follow up

When the person tells you where they want to start, congratulate them and ask them WHEN they may start. Then let them know that you will follow up with them to see how they went. This acts as a further support and provides some accountability for them.

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