020 – Gifts from Clients – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Following Up Enquiries – Counselling Placements

Gifts from Clients – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Following Up Enquiries – Counselling Placements

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In episode 20 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Rory Lees-Oakes and Ken Kelly discuss the dilemma of gifts from clients. Rory then explains Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and Ken – in ‘Person-Centred Business’ – looks at what to do following a telephone or email enquiry from a client. Last, the presenters discuss counselling placements.

Gifts from Counselling Clients

When a client offers you a gift at their final session, this can be symbolic to the journey you have accompanied them on. Refusing the gift may be hurtful to them or prevent them from experiencing a satisfactory ending to counselling – but accepting the gift may not be ethical. Rory and Ken offer a number of tips on how to balance these considerations, and how to decide whether, and on what basis, to accept a gift from a client. As always, taking an evaluative view of your behaviour as a counsellor, and taking any difficult issues to supervision, are important.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

US psychologist Abraham Maslow first wrote about his hierarchy of needs in an article for Psychological Review in the 1940s. This elegant model takes the form of a triangle when presented graphically, with layers representing the different types of human needs. These are divided into lower-order (or deficiency) needs and meta (high-level) needs.

Lower-order needs comprise:

  • biological and physiological needs – such as for breathing, water, food, sleep, shelter, excretion, sex and comfortable temperature
  • safety and security needs – e.g. for body and health
  • love and belonging needs – for relationships with family, friends, colleagues, partner and pets
  • esteem needs – for self-esteem and respect for/from others, confidence, independence, achievements and prestige.

Meanwhile, meta needs are:

  • cognitive needs – for knowledge, reason and meaning
  • aesthetic needs – for appreciation of and search for beauty, balance, form, structure and life-expression (e.g. in music and art)
  • self-actualisation – for being moral, creative, spontaneous, able to problem-solve, tolerant, unprejudiced and willing to grow
  • transcendence – for helping others to self-actualise

In his book The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Maslow also described the Jonah complex (named after the biblical character who tried to escape his destiny). This complex is a fear of success, which prevents self-actualisation, sentencing the person to mediocrity.

Maslow also described peak experiences – moments of euphoric mental state achieved by people who are self-actualising – in a 1961 essay entitled Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences.

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What is Self -Actualization

Responding to Email and Phone Enquiries

When a potential client makes an email or phone enquiry, the most important thing is that they receive a response – one that is both timely and professional. Ken gives tips on the best way to achieve this:

  • Ensure that any email address and/or phone number you list on adverts, directory entries etc. is serviced – that is, you pick up messages daily.
  • If possible, reply to the person using the communication method they have chosen to approach you.
  • Use an auto-responder for email enquiries, so that the person gets an initial acknowledgement quickly. Many email providers offer this service; MailChimp (free) and AWeber ($19/month – you can include your photo, signature etc.) are two other services to consider.
  • Use a voicemail message for phone enquiries, ensuring this sounds warm and welcoming.
  • In any auto-responder or voicemail message, let enquirers know when they can expect a personal response.
  • In your personal response, reflect back that you have heard the client’s particular call for help, and explain when you are available, where you are based, and how much you charge.


Rory and Ken discuss how to find a counselling placement. Key tips include starting early; focusing on critical times (June/July and January); volunteering at the agency beforehand; and being persistent. If you are called for an interview, be honest if you do not know the answer to any questions, and dress appropriately (in keeping with others in the organisation).

Rory has written an eBook, How to Survive Counselling Training, which includes a chapter on finding a placement, and even a letter template to support your search. You can download this free of charge through the Counselling Tutor website (see the right side-bar).

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