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It Is People-y Out There: Counselor/Client Interactions In Public Settings

Tis the season and happy almost 2024. That’s right everyone, it is the busiest time of the year. Admit it, you wish you were lounging on a tropical island, but that is not the reality for many of us. We are busy shopping, attending holiday parties, and running last minute errands. While shopping, attending parties, and running errands may not seem to be hard tasks, please note, there will be other people engaged in those exact situations at the same time. As social media has warned us via countless memes, “it is people-y out there.”


For counselors, being in close contact with other people is an everyday occurrence. Counselors hold conversations with strangers and are able to maintain eye contact when others choose to look away. Talking with people and providing comfort and reassurance make counselors “people-persons” by definition of their occupation. During business hours you are accessible and social, but how do you handle people, specifically clients, when you are shopping, attending parties, and running errands?


Are you the “hair in a ponytail with a ball cap pulled down tight,” or the “face buried into your shopping list” or the “phone to your ear knowing good and well no one is on the other end of the line”? Trying to go out during the most hectic time of the year incognito is not a bad idea, but your effort will fail from time to time. So, the question is, what are counselors to do when the fun and festivities of the season put you face to face with a client in a public place?


The American Counseling Association and the American School Counselor Association focus on the importance of confidentiality. In most instances, counselors are not going to acknowledge their clients outside of a professional setting in an attempt to secure their clients privacy. Is that always the case? No. Clients are going to approach their counselors. Students are going to follow their school counselors around the local grocery. As you are venturing out this time of year, consider how you will react when you notice a client on the sidewalk or at the post office. Also, plan how you will respond if a client starts a conversation with you at your local Starbucks.

For more information on counselor/client interactions in a public setting visit this link for an article from Psychology Today.

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