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Mastering Incongruence and Integrity in Counselling: "Do as I Say, But Not as I Do"

Updated: Jun 25

In counselling, integrity is often hailed as one of the cornerstones of effective practice (BACP, 2019). We emphasise to our clients the importance of congruence—the alignment between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Yet, as counsellors, we sometimes find ourselves struggling with the very incongruences we aim to help our clients overcome. This paradox can be summed up in the mantra, "Do as I say, but not as I do."

The Dilemma of Counsellor Incongruence

Counsellor incongruence occurs when there is a mismatch between what we advocate for our clients and how we live our own lives. This can manifest in various ways:

  • Personal vs Professional Boundaries: Counsellors might struggle to maintain healthy boundaries in their personal lives while advising clients to do so.

  • Self-Care: We stress the importance of self-care to our clients, yet we often neglect our own well-being.

  • Emotional Honesty: Encouraging clients to express their emotions honestly, while we hide our own vulnerabilities.

This incongruence can create a sense of internal conflict and even lead to feelings of guilt or hypocrisy. More importantly, it can impact our effectiveness as counsellors and the therapeutic alliance with our clients.

Understanding "Do as I Say, But Not as I Do"

The phrase "Do as I say, but not as I do" captures the essence of this incongruence. It acknowledges the gap between our professional advice and personal actions. While this mantra may seem contradictory, it can serve as a catalyst for deeper self-reflection and professional growth.

Mastering Incongruence: Steps Towards Integrity


Regular self-reflection helps in recognising areas of incongruence. By examining our actions and comparing them with our professional advice, we can identify discrepancies.

Journaling, supervision, and peer support groups are valuable tools for this process.

Embracing Vulnerability:

Acknowledging our vulnerabilities to ourselves and, when appropriate, to our clients can humanise us and strengthen the therapeutic relationship.

Consider reading 'Valerie Wosket' - she emphasises the importance of reflective practice in counselling. She encourages counsellors to engage in continuous self-reflection and self-evaluation to enhance their effectiveness and ensure they are meeting the needs of their clients. Her notable book is "The Therapeutic Use of Self: Counselling Practice, Research and Supervision", where she explores how counsellors can effectively use their own experiences, emotions, and insights in their therapeutic practice.

Brene Brown's work on vulnerability highlights the power of being open about our struggles.

Commitment to Personal Growth:

Engage in continuous personal development (CPD). This might include therapy, self-help strategies, or personal coaching.

Aim to embody the principles you advocate in your practice, creating a more authentic and congruent professional presence.

Setting Realistic Expectations:

Understand that perfection is unattainable. We are perfectly imperfect It is okay to have areas where you struggle. What’s important is the commitment to working on these areas.

By setting realistic expectations for yourself, you reduce the pressure and the likelihood of burnout.

Leveraging Supervision:

Regular supervision provides a safe space to discuss feelings of incongruence and to develop strategies for alignment.

Coaching can offer guidance and model how experienced counsellors navigate these challenges.

Ethical Practice:

Uphold ethical standards by being honest and transparent about your limitations and seeking help when needed.

Ensure that your personal struggles do not impede your professional responsibilities

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