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feel that in a crisis, advice-giving is an activity that if used too freely and
with poor timing, can cause you to become personally involved in the success or
failure of your advice.
these problems, advice-giving is a valid technique, as you know, if wisely used.
You, of course, need to set a boundary to be sensitive to the clues a client gives
that indicate they need advice and direct suggestions. Advice should be based
on knowledge, objective analysis of the situation, and judgment of the client's
capacity to accept counsel.
the authority-of-knowledge as a basis for these activities implies that the therapist
breaks the boundary of client self-determination. By giving advice, this indicates
that you know more about dealing with the client's concerns than the client does.
Thus, to be ethical, advice giving should be based on an objective and realistic
evaluation of all the factors involved.
♦ Ethical Advice-Giving
example of advice giving related to the authority-of-knowledge is as follows.
It was reported that a physician teaching a course on human sexuality was attacked
for lecturing about homosexuality when he himself was not gay. He responded that
he had never been pregnant either, but he could teach about pregnancy. The therapist's
experiences may provide unique learning for the client, however, unless the therapist's
experiences are accompanied by other knowledge and related to the client's therapy
goal, the boundary has been crossed to meeting the therapist's needs rather than
the client's needs.
may have had the frustrating experience of proposing solutions and giving advice
that the client either agrees with verbally and does not follow, or carries out
in such a way that it fails. In general, it is a questionable boundary violation
to say, for example, "With my oldest son, I always set midnight as a curfew and insisted that he be in by then." This lends a personal element to the
session that can lead to a focus on the therapist rather than the client. Certainly
therapists use what they learn in their personal experiences, but when logical
discussion of solutions is underway, it is better to maintain a firm boundary
and not to personalize the situation.
♦ 5 Guidelines for Advice-Giving
success or failure of advice-giving depends on the client's capacity to use it. If you decide to go into the gray area of the advice-giving boundary, I have found
clients are most frequently able to use advice successfully in the following situations.
See what you think of the five following guidelines:
1. First and foremost in crisis situations, when my client's ability to deal with the problem
is inadequate and he or she is suffering anxiety, pain, fear, and other extreme
2. When the client has a well-founded confidence in
and respect for a third party source, I find by quoting this third party
source, the client may be more likely to listen to the ideas.
3. When their cultural conditioning or life situation is such that they tend to depend
on others rather than on themselves for direction and solution, the client is
more likely to follow the advice.
4. When the advice is given
in such a way that the client's integrity and right to be self-determining are
respected, and it coincides with their needs and wants, the client is more likely
to follow the advice.
5. When circumstances are such that they
have no alternative, the client is more likely to follow the advice.
- Robison, W. (2000). Ethical Decision Making. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Sah, S., & Feiler, D. (2020). Conflict of interest disclosure with high-quality advice: The disclosure penalty and the altruistic signal. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 26(1), 88–104.
Samaan, M. K., & Parker, C. E. (1973). Effects of behavioral (reinforcement) and advice-giving counseling on information-seeking behavior. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 20(3), 193–201.
Wanzel, S. K., Schultze, T., & Schulz-Hardt, S. (2017). Disentangling the effects of advisor consensus and advice proximity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(10), 1669–1675.
What is one example of a situation when advice-giving is appropriate?
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