The Skill of Psychoeducation: What You Need To Know

There is an appropriate time and an appropriate way to provide psychoeducation to your clients. Do you know what they are?

Clients often come to counselors not knowing things. They may not know about good relationship skills, good self-care, how to prevent burn out, benefits of exercise, the damaging affects of substance abuse…the list is endless. As a result, they may make unhealthy or poor choices. Not as a result of an underlying mental disorder, but simply because they are basing decisions on faulty information! Obviously, if we can correct the misinformation, then we can help clients make better choices. It stands to reason that psychoeducation is one of the simplest interventions we can do. But, we still must take care to do it properly.

How do we know as counselors when and how to educate our clients?

First, the timing must be right. If the client has raised an issue, and some of their beliefs or feelings about the issue are based in misinformation, then the counselor has a responsibility to point this out. But the counselor must first hear the client’s story and their point of view before attempting to educate them. Otherwise we risk jumping in with information that may not be helpful, and that can damage the counseling relationship.

Second, the client must be receptive. If the client is not interested in receiving the information, then any further part on the counselor to impart this information may be perceived as pushy and judgmental rather than helpful. If the client appears to be resistant, try using the confrontation and decision making skills mentioned in previous posts. These skills may help ensure client readiness. If your client rolls their eyes, slumps in the chair or otherwise nonverbally communicates their disinterest, drop the approach.

Third, the counselor must actually know what they are talking about. Don’t attempt to educate a client on something that you aren’t expert in. Not only is this unethical, but clients will immediately realize that you are not being genuine, and the counseling relationship could be damaged.

Fourth, consider the client’s needs when you are giving information. This isn’t a time to show off all of your fancy education. Clients don’t care about that. They want relevant and accurate information that is going to help them solve their issue. If your information doesn’t do that, don’t share it.

Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,

Barbara LoFrisco