Counselor Impairment and Wellness


Counselor impairment and wellness is a current issue affecting the counseling industry. Counselors are trained to restore hope, and, therefore, most of them do not seek help from other professionals. Counseling impairment, if poorly handled, affects the clients and disturbs the counselor. Misconducts in the counseling industry have increased since some counselors are incompetent providing questionable services.

Regulations have to be formulated and implemented to govern the counseling practices to prevent any form of malpractice. Such wellness programs as the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL-III) and Self-Care Assessment tools are used to help counselors and individuals evaluate themselves, respectively. From self-care assessment strategies, I was able to locate areas in my life requiring change. Self-care is paramount, and using reliable approaches to improve the lifestyle is essential.

Councilors are among the most important service providers in the contemporary times. However, similar to other helping professionals, counselors are at high risk of impairment, veracious trauma, and burnout. Thus, it is critical to enhance the awareness of the potential challenges, which professionals may encounter in their duties. It is important to have a clear understanding of these issues and device critical ways of ensuring mitigation through self-care and personal wellness strategies.

Definition of Counselor Impairment

Counseling is a sensible profession requiring discretion when trying to aid the person seeking help. Therapeutic counseling impairment happens where a massive negative effect on a counselor’s functioning occurs. This impact poses a potential risk and interferes with the counselor’s care services (Hunter, 2016). Counselor impairment is a condition caused by chemical dependency, mental illness, debilitation or physical illness, and personal crisis (traumatic events, burnout, and life crisis). It is a serious problem, and its impacts vary, depending on the course.

The condition is manifested in a number of ways, which are not limited to unethical behavior only. The behavior effect may manifest as an impairment symbol, although it may also appear in a counselor who is not impaired. Such counselor is different from the one undergoing stress; however, the stressors may not have a significant effect on the professional’s work. Similarly, an impaired counselor may be assumed to have reasonable clinical competence, when actually the capability of the professional has diminished in a number of ways (Hunter, 2016).

A common misperception in the profession pushes counselors to help others, forgetting their personal issues. Most people assume counselors are immune to mental problems because of their education and training (Hunter, 2016). Such common myth is detrimental and results in counselor impairment since they may need help too.

The problem can be evident if the counselor’s trends on personal decision making are observed. The industry’s myths and misconceptions are detrimental to the service providers as they threaten the sustainability of the industry. The perception of counselors healing themselves is a mental reflection of stigmatization, which has persisted in the community of psychotherapists and general population. It is essential for both new and senior certified counselors to be aware of the challenges they may encounter while working and the possible remedies (Ahia & Boccone, 2017). Accepting one’s personal troubles and trying to solve them is paramount not only in the counseling profession but also to other people.

There are several attributes which make counselors vulnerable to the problems they encounter. The work environment is essential in exposing the professionals to the potential challenges. Social workers are susceptible to empathy coming from their clients’ struggles. They are trained to be the source of hope and change. Therefore, the therapeutic relationship they have with clients is critical and instrumental. It may elevate the counselor’s desire and feeling of responsibility for better therapeutic outcomes, which may reinforce unrealistic expectations of the expert’s infallibility (Hunter, 2016). Contextual factors hinder the ability of a counselor and the entire system from effectively practicing self-care.

Counselor impairment can lead to a number of negative consequences for the clients. Unsolved problems can appear which could be solved at an early stage. Counseling systems and agencies may have unrealistic expectations for counselors inserting a heavy workload on them (Hunter, 2016). When a counselor experiences unnecessary pressure, the services which they offer reduce in quality subsequently, hindering the client’s from getting the appropriate help (Hunter, 2016). When issues of traumatic stress increase, they can grow into systematic challenges ranging from absenteeism and mistrust.

Implications of Impairment

Counseling requires professionalism and total adherence to legal matters together with ethical issues. Disclosing confidential personal information is one of the misconducts in the counseling industry. The loss of total control over the private data of a client can have adverse consequences (Ahia & Boccone, 2017). Disclosing a client’s information, whether intentionally or accidentally, may result in identity theft, which is illegal not only in the counseling profession.

Personal life struggles and stress can lead to misconduct behavior amongst the counselors. For instance, when a counselor is stressed, they may lose temper displaying vengeful, inappropriate acts. Incompetence is considered a misconduct during counseling because the problem of the client might not fully be handled. Clients seek help from counselors, and if the services offered are below standard, the client leaves experiencing the same problems or even more stressed. Moreover, charging an inappropriate fee for service delivery is considered an ethical misconduct (Smith, 2020). When a client cannot afford to pay for the counseling services because of overcharging, their condition may worsen.

Misconducts in the field of social work is becoming a problem in many countries. In the state of Louisiana, many counseling misconducts have emerged, forcing some clients to be reluctant to seek professional’s services. Cases of sexual advancement from counselling professionals in the state have been reported in the previous years (American Church Group, 2016). Some counselors take advantage of stressed clients and lure them into inappropriate intimacy. Such misconducts lowers the confidence of the clients in the counselling professionals.

Impairment Prevention

There is a number of strategies applicable in reducing the social service providers’ problems. One of the vital skills accredited counselors can master in preventing impairment is the consistent self-care and self-monitoring practices (Hunter, 2016). Impairment prevention and monitoring programs help counselors in self-assessment to identify any form of counselors’ vulnerabilities. Counseling examining task forces have several self-assessment tools which have been designed to locate vulnerabilities to impairment.

For instance, the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL-III) evaluation instrument measures compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization, and burnout (Hunter, 2016). Increasing the assessment output of ProQOL-III enables the task force to balance the tool with the Self-Care Assessment approach. The assessment emphasizes wellness activities, and different counselors participate in various domains of impairment prevention and wellness.

Counselors fail to practice activities they recommend their clients to adopt. Counselors need to be advised to seek help as other people whenever experiencing life struggles. Cognitive restructuring entails identifying negative cognitions which might interfere with personal care and promotes wellness (Hunter, 2016). The following are some of the practices used by trauma therapists in promoting wellness among the counselors:

  • Sharing the problem with trusted colleagues.
  • Attending workshops and wellness programs.
  • Spending time with family members and friends.
  • Engage in vacations for exposure to social life.
  • Socializing and meeting different people.
  • Exercising to regulate positive body hormones.
  • Avoiding pressure and heavy workloads.
  • Developing and walking in spiritual life.
  • Accepting correction and supervision.

Wellness Plan and Reflection

I developed a Stress Response Inventory (SRI) using emotional, cognitive, somatic, and behavioral stress responses against the clinical standards. My inventory consisted of 21 items (having a score internal of 0-156) categorized into seven factors ranging from tension, fatigue, frustration, depression, anger, aggression, and somatization. I developed a self-care assessment program encompassing several questions having the following interpretations (0-never, 1-almost never, 2-sometimes, 3-fairly often, and 4-extremely often):

  1. During the last month, how frequently have I been upset due to something unexpected?
  2. During the last month, have I ever been unable to control important life events?
  3. How often have I been stressed and nervous for the last month?
  4. How often have I been confident in handling my personal problems in the last month?
  5. During the last month, how many times have I felt things going my way?
  6. How frequently have I realized I could not cope with all the things requiring my attention for the last month?
  7. In the last 30 days, how frequently have I controlled irritations in my life?
  8. During the last month, how regular have I felt being on of things?
  9. How frequently have I been angered by things which were out of my control during last month?
  10. How often have I felt difficulties piling up my own personal struggles to an extent I could not withstand any longer?

Self-Care Pie Chart

I developed my self-care pie chart including a number of events I often enjoy in my daily activities. The self-care pie chart helped me to envision all results in a clear perspective. From the Chart 1, the largest portion indicates what I love doing most while the smallest portion depicts what I do least in a day.

Self-Care Pie Chart.
Chart 1. Self-Care Pie Chart.

Self-Care Social Support Worksheet

My social self-care worksheet had 10 items as following (1-I poorly do this, 2-I do this well, 3-I do this very well, 4-I would wish to improve):

  1. Spend time with friends and people I like.
  2. Call or reach to my family members and friends who are far away.
  3. Have stimulating and vibrant conversations.
  4. Meet and create rapport with new people.
  5. Spend time with my partner.
  6. Asking for help when stranded.
  7. Participate in enjoyable events with friends.
  8. Have intimate time with my parents and family members.
  9. Keeping in touch with friends.
  10. My overall social life self-care.

From my self-care assessment analysis, I need to adjust many areas for my life to improve. In particular, I do not like working, and it is confirmed by the pie chart where sleep is the largest part. I need to focus on healthy eating, physical exercise, and meditation. Change is difficult, and I need a mentor and close friends helping me implement it. I will draft a healthy eating timetable and follow it. I will join social programs to meet new people and share ideas enhancing my participation in spiritual and social events.

In summary, it is important to have a clear understanding of the challenges reducing the quality of counselors’ service. Counseling is a sensible profession requiring discretion when trying to aid the person seeking help. However, counselor impairment is a condition caused by chemical dependency, mental illness, physical illness, and personal crisis. It is essential to have a clear understanding of these issues and ways of ensuring mitigation through self-care strategies.


Ahia, C.E. & Boccone, P.J. (2017). Licensure board actions against professional counselors: Implications for counselor training. American Counseling Association. Web.

American Church Group. (2016). Reduce the likelihood of sexual misconduct in a counseling setting. American Church Group – Louisiana. Web.

Hunter, S.T. (2016). Beyond the breaking point: Examining the pieces of counselor burnout, compassion fatigue, and secondhand depression. American Counseling Association. Web.

Smith, J. (Producer). (2020). EP155: The Quest for Wellness – A Conversation with Dr. Gerard Lawson [Audio Podcast]. The Thoughtful Counselor. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Counselor Impairment and Wellness." September 19, 2023.