University of Edinburgh

The Accidental Counsellor: supporting others in additional support needs work

Presented in Glasgow on Tuesday, 22nd January 2019


Staff often find themselves cast in the role of the 'accidental counsellor' to colleagues and parents. This can leave staff feeling unsure how best to respond. Course participants had opportunities to explore and better understand:

  • issues underlying parent and staff anxieties and challenges;
  • options for helpful responding: theory and practice;
  • how to address the expectations of others.

The course had a practical focus, including opportunities both to explore typical situations and to practice different approaches.

Part 1: The Roots of Challenge

  • Common emotional responses: Anxiety, shame, anger and fear.
  • Challenging values, attitudes and actions
  • 4 options for responding - and what we know doesn't help
  • Intentions vs Perceptions: The unique nature of experiencing

Part 2: The Core Conditions of a Helping Relationship

  • Principles of a Person-Centred approach: The self-concept and autonomy. Empathy, Unconditional Positive Regard and Congruence: Why they are necessary - and the inevitable tensions.

Part 3: Emotionally literate responding

  • Active listening; clarifying issues; 'doing with' approaches (problem-solving, solution-focused and restorative)

Part 4: Boundaries matter

  • Expectations and role-clarity
  • Individual and organisational responsibilities
  • Revisiting the 4 options for responding

Participants were encouraged to do some brief preparatory reading in advance of the course.

Participants said:

"Yes, this has given me a great deal to think about - I will be practising the language and rephrasing of my input with colleagues, parents, partners."

"Input was really practical. Activities were helpful, not threatening!"

Target Audience

All those who work with and support the parents and school staff of children with additional support needs including visual impairment and deafness.


Richard Hendry, ASN Consultant Trainer


10.10 am The Roots of Challenge Richard Hendry

11.15 am The Core Conditions of a Helping Relationship

1.15 pm Emotionally literate responding

2.15 pm Boundaries matter

3.15 pm Course Summary

3.45 pm Course Evaluation and close