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Exploring the Pros and Cons of Counselling Volunteer Placements.

Updated: Jun 25

Counselling volunteer placements offer aspiring counsellors valuable opportunities to gain practical experience, contribute to their communities, and enhance their professional development. However, like any endeavour, volunteering in counselling comes with its own set of advantages and challenges. Drawing on literature from the field, I examine the pros and cons of counselling volunteer placements.


Practical Experience: Volunteer placements provide hands-on experience working with clients, allowing aspiring counsellors to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings (Zalaquett & Woods, 2010). This practical experience is invaluable for developing counselling skills and building confidence.

Exposure to Diversity: Volunteer placements often expose counsellors-in-training to diverse populations, including individuals from different cultural, socioeconomic, and demographic backgrounds. This exposure fosters cultural competence and enhances understanding of diverse perspectives (Weaver et al., 2014).

Networking Opportunities: Volunteering in counselling settings allows individuals to network with professionals in the field, potentially leading to collaboration, and future employment opportunities (Shepard et al., 2015). Building professional relationships can be instrumental in launching a counselling career.

Personal Growth: Engaging in volunteer work can be personally fulfilling and emotionally rewarding. Aspiring counsellors often report increased self-awareness, empathy, and a sense of purpose as a result of their volunteer experiences (Busacca & Stoltz, 2017).

You will need to find a personal therapist to meet your mandatory personal therapy hours - this can be costly! Like me, some therapists provide a concession for student counsellors.


Supervision: Volunteer placements may not always provide independent supervision and may use a clinical supervisor instead, jeopardising impartiality. You might need to pay for your own supervision and this can be a hefty fee!

This lack of supervision can be challenging for counsellors-in-training, particularly when faced with complex or difficult cases (Glosoff et al., 2011).

Ethical Concerns: Volunteer counsellors may encounter ethical dilemmas related to confidentiality, boundaries, and dual relationships. Without adequate supervision and guidance, volunteers may struggle to navigate these ethical challenges effectively (Corey et al., 2019).

Burnout and Stress:

Counselling work, particularly in volunteer settings, can be emotionally demanding and draining. Volunteers may experience burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma when exposed to clients' distressing experiences (Maslach et al., 2001). Must look after yourself!!


Counselling volunteer placements offer a mix of benefits and challenges for aspiring counsellors. While they provide practical experience, exposure to diversity, networking opportunities, and personal growth, volunteers may also encounter limited supervision, ethical concerns, burnout, and challenges in professional development. By carefully considering these pros and cons and seeking opportunities for support and mentorship, counsellors-in-training can make the most of their volunteer experiences and lay the foundation for a rewarding career in counselling.


Busacca, L. A., & Stoltz, K. B. (2017). The value of volunteering: Developing counselling skills, multicultural competence, and a sense of purpose in college students. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 12(4), 505-520.

Corey, G., Corey, M. S., & Corey, C. (2019). Issues and ethics in the helping professions. Cengage Learning.

Glosoff, H. L., Herlihy, B., & Spence, R. (2011). Supervision in school counselling. Routledge.

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 397-422.

Shepard, D. S., Neal, A. G., & Fretham, S. J. (2015). Beyond the practicum: Volunteering and employment as pre-graduation counselling training experiences. Journal of Counselling & Development, 93(1), 86-95.

Weaver, N. A., Borders, L. D., & Callahan, J. L. (2014). Cultural competence beliefs and perceived skills among school counsellors. Professional School Counselling, 17(1), 16-28.

Zalaquett, C. P., & Woods, R. A. (2010). Counselling competency development: A holistic approach. Cengage Learning.

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