I was a test subject in a counseling session at work and now I regret it

A reader writes:

I’m a entry-level development officer at a small graduate school. Our school houses, among other programs, a counselor education department. Yesterday was an important day in the counselor ed. department. The new class of counselors-in-training had their first hands-on counseling experience, which involved meeting with some (paid) volunteers for half-hour sessions.

30 minutes before the counseling sessions were supposed to begin, one of the volunteers backed out. The program administrator scrambled to find a replacement but was unable to do so. When I heard about the problem, I volunteered to serve as a “test subject.” In my rush to help, I didn’t really think through the possible consequences of my decision.

I was instructed to choose a real problem in my life to discuss, but nothing overly personal. I decided to share about a difficult decision I need to make – while I’m struggling to make up my mind, I’ve talked openly about this decision with my friends, pastor, boss, and others. It didn’t seem like it would be a big deal to talk this over with a counseling student.

Either these students are really good or I was more sensitive about this topic than I thought. 15 minutes into my first session I was in tears. Not big choking sobs or anything, but I definitely needed to take a moment to compose myself. Wow – not what I expected! I maintained my composure in the next sessions with different counselors, but barely.

Because this is a teaching clinic, all sessions are recorded and discussed in class. I was aware of this when I agreed to participate. I failed to consider, however, that two of my student workers are enrolled in this class. My student workers are both in the counseling program as part of a significant career change. Between the two of them, they have 20+ years of professional work experience – WAY more than me. So I’ve tried really hard to be professional and competent in front of them as a way to maintain my credibility as a manager. Now I’m afraid that by participating in this counseling and losing my composure, I’ll have undone the credibility I worked hard to achieve.

In hindsight, I now recognize that it’s a pretty stupid thing to agree to participate in a psychological study conducted (in part) by one’s direct reports. Lesson learned! But in the meantime, is there anything I can do to control the damage? Should I speak about this with my direct-reports, or just hope that my case wasn’t discussed in class, ignore it, and move on?

I wouldn’t worry too much about this! Just getting a little teary and needing a minute to compose yourself is … well, pretty damn normal in counseling sessions. Your student workers are in a counseling program, so they presumably know this and are pretty comfortable with displays of emotion. (They might even think it’s admirable that you opened up in that particular context.)

If you really feel uncomfortable about it, I think you could go to the program administrator and explain that you were caught off-guard by your reaction and hadn’t realized that the session would elicit such a strong emotional response from you — and that you’re feeling awkward about your student workers seeing it.

But if you can put it out of your mind, I encourage you to. Keep being professional and competent in your dealings with them, and don’t let this rattle you. Credibility isn’t broken by displaying emotion in the very place where emotion belongs.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 61 comments… read them below }

  1. Afiendishthingy*

    It’s so funny how I can discuss a situation with friends, family, etc, without getting emotional, even treat it as a humorous anecdote, and the moment I bring it up to my therapist the waterworks come out! I can see how you would feel awkward about your reports being part of the program but I doubt they’ll think less of you.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      Yes, exactly. I literally cry through 100% of my sessions, no matter how strongly or not strongly I’m feeling in the rest of my life about the issue at hand. It’s weird, but it totally happens!

      OP, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Your students are counseling students, so they will almost definitely be professional about this. And also, it’s always really hard to remember when it’s you, but being emotional about something that’s stressful–especially doing it in a really socially acceptable way like in a counseling session–is something only a jerk would be judgy about.

      1. Rebecca*

        Yes! My therapist once said something about me being emotional (not negative, he was just making an observation) and I remember thinking that was so funny since my friends and family often comment on how stoic I am!

        And I agree that being emotional in a counseling session is totally normal. They should not think that is odd at all or judge you for it.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        I can tell you this – the tears are not just about the subject you are discussing at that moment. We all carry a lot squelched emotions around with us, they build up and soon or later, they come to the surface. Sometimes you’ll think “where did THAT come from?” The therapist’s office is the safest place to be, so it’s not at all surprising it happens there.

    2. KC*

      I’ve had similar experiences in therapy myself. I often feel like I don’t want to be a “burden” on people I interact with daily with my illogical innermost feelings. So when I finally sit down with someone who’s listening to me (and who I don’t feel like I’m “burdening” with my feelings), everything comes tumbling out and I become a mess.

  2. BadPlanning*

    This probably won’t make you feel better, but it sounds like a test within a test for your student workers — not only the classwork portion of the session, but how do you deal with your job and real life and keeping professional boundaries. And a reminder that your patients are real people, not just test subjects!

    Heck, your students might think you a semi-pro actor and turned on the tears on purpose — or got really into the role.

    I would be embarrassed too, OP! But I think you did a great learning service to those students by opening up and being so honest.

    1. CL*

      Interesting point about professional boundaries. What is this program teaching its students when it allows them to counsel a coworker? In real life, you would never take a coworker as a patient! The people running the program never should have asked or allowed you (OP) to participate. You have now divulged personal things to people you would normally not, and you should not have been put in that position. You should probably speak up about it, as they shouldn’t do this again in the future.

      1. KerryOwl*

        To be fair, I don’t believe the OP was actually counseled by her student workers. Rather, they were in the same class, and will possibly see the counseling sessions in a video.

        OP, is it too late to bring it up to the instructor of the course, and ask that your sessions not be reviewed in class?

        1. A Therapist*

          It’s still really, really unethical. Counseling someone or being privy to someone’s session when you have an existing relationship (like coworkers) is not OK; it makes me wonder if the professor knows all the details in this situation? I don’t think it’s a big deal that the OP showed emotion (totally normal) but if she supervises two of the students at work I think she should talk with the professor.

          1. Another Therapist (and regular commenter)*

            This is not unethical. This happened in my graduate program- we practiced on actors, consenting strangers, and each other. This is how students learn. In the later stages, we worked with real clients while in internship (and highly supervised) but think of how unethical it would have been to have as-yet-untrained students practicing on real clients with real problems. When someone volunteers to be a client in this fake situation, they know that they’re not there to get real help, discuss anything extremely personal. They’re talked to about the lack of confidentiality and they’re encouraged to talk about something real, but not too upsetting or “too real,” and they get to make their own choice about how vulnerable to get.

            1. A Therapist*

              I meant it was unethical because of the dual relationship – the OP said she supervises 2 of the students in that class in their job.

  3. PJ*

    I was a peer grief counselor for many years. As part of our ongoing training, we had “practice” sessions with each other. Even when we were talking about a made-up issue as part of the training, it was common for us to tap into some emotions. It’s not a big thing and it’s normal. Your willingness to participate to the depth that you did was a gift to the participants. Shake it off and move on — if you’re judged at all by this, it will be favorably. You were in the appropriate situation for these emotions to come out. It’s not like you sit at your desk and cry about your woes. Trust me when I tell you, those who choose that line of work have deep respect for people who are willing to feel their feelings. I’ll repeat myself — what you did was a gift to them.

  4. CTO*

    I’m sure your student workers are very comfortable with tears or other displays of emotion, and they don’t think less of people for having those reactions in a therapeutic setting. They witness (or will witness) tears every single day. It’s nothing unusual in their line of work. Counselors are usually empathetic, accepting people. They’re not likely to be the kind of person who would judge or lose respect for their boss over a few tears.

    I’m going to assume that any classroom video review will be focused on the students’ side of the interactions. No one in the classroom, your students included, will be all that interested in what you said or did.

  5. TK*

    I totally understand where you’re coming from, OP– I would probably feel much the same way. But I agree that this is probably not such a big deal. Part of the job of being a counselor is dealing with confidentiality from clients, regardless of your other interactions with them. In this case, they have other interactions with you outside of the counseling setting. Maybe this is somewhat unusual, but probably not as much as you think for people in professions where confidentiality is required. Surely small-town doctors and lawyers end up having social interactions with patients/clients about whom they know things it wouldn’t generally be desirable to air in public. For members of the clergy I would imagine this is really common thing. As the other commenters note, this will probably just be a great learning experience for the students as much as anything.

  6. Sam*

    If it makes you feel any better, my boss was in a meeting with me once and suddenly burst into tears over something incredibly tragic (that day was the anniversary). She explained it to me, and for a few minutes we talked and she calmed down.

    In no way did this change my views of her as a boss. She is my boss, I respect her, etc. But she is human and has her moments.

    I wouldn’t stress yourself out. Anyone who changes their view of you because you got emotional in a therapy session, is just a jerk.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think I would end up respecting the boss even more. It is amazing what people carry around with them and, yet, still manage to function like normal human beings.

      OP, one thing you skated right by that these people WILL notice is your ability to trust.

      I would be very surprised if this played out in anything less than a respectful, thoughtful manner.

  7. Mike B.*

    I’d mention it to your reports and the administrator, but not in the context you think: they seem to have conducted the session admirably, and deserve recognition for that.

    The fact that you became emotional need never be mentioned to anyone again. It was a result of them doing their jobs well, and entirely within the bounds of what could be expected in a counseling session.

    1. nep*

      And Alison’s response, once again, spot on.
      All the best to OP. This need not be a negative. Your professionalism, competence, and human-hood are intact. Onward and upward. Good luck.

  8. Katie the Fed*

    I would not even worry about it, really. If anything people are going to think better of you for taking it seriously enough to put in such an effort.

    Here, I’ll tell you a story that might make you feel a bit better:

    A few years ago at work I was taking a training session on mentoring. I was really unhappy in my current position, was being worked to death, and it was just awful. So during the training we had to pair up and go through the exercises, and I was paired with a very senior person in my agency. As we worked through the exercises, it became very apparently just how bleak and terrible my current job situation was.

    So every question he asked, like “well, have you raised this issue wtih my boss” just got worse and worse, and eventually I got teary too because it hit me just how miserable I was. I’d somehow been in denial until that point. So at the end of it he just handed me a tissue, while looking positively afraid of me, and said “um, I don’t really know what to tell you except I think you need a new job.”

    He was right. It was embarrassing, but you know what, I learned more about mentoring and I definitely gave it my all.

    1. Chloe*

      Oh my goodness, thats kind of awful but also funny – I too have been in a situation where I’ve cried in front of an older man, dealing with my emoti0ns was not something he was comfortable with! I hope you got a new job after that.

  9. Michelle*

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with showing emotions, particularly as part of a therapy session. Your student workers are being trained on how to help people deal with emotional topics / issues while maintaining a certain level of professionalism. They will not think less of you because you got a little upset. My advice would be for you to continue to act like you normally do at work. The only way they might think less of you is if you let this experience change they way you interact with them while at work.

  10. Bwmn*

    I used to be a research assistant for a neuropsychologist and within the department, a staff member who gave child IQ tests was practicing with giving adult IQ tests. I was one of her ‘practices’ – and I was assured that the test would never be graded and really was all about the staff member being comfortable giving the test. As odd as it felt at the time having my place of employment having my IQ test scores – over time it really was clear that it was more for training/education than anything else and was just treated like me doing a favor.

  11. Barbara in Swampeast*

    Wow! I have a video playing in another window about Freud!

    What jumped out at me is how hard you work to “maintain my credibility as a manager”. Being in your position, you have authority, positional authority. You don’t seem to feel that you have enough workd experience, especially next to these two workers, to have personal authority, but the authority that comes with your position is enough. Trust in it. You just have to be yourself, be competent, and don’t be an a**. Your concern about this one incident is a manifestation of your unease about having less experience. If the workers haven’t given you problems with their attitude before this, you probably don’t have to worry now.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Good stuff here, OP. I had to read it twice, it’s that good. Your career, in fact your life, is not the sum total of one event. There is more to you than any one event. Likewise, there will always be people with more experience than you. But there is no one that has your exact group of skills, your world-view or your talents. No one can match you on all those things.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Actually, it’s not even that no one has your exact group of skills.

        It’s that no one else, right now, has YOUR JOB. Your assigned responsibilities.
        Your power and authority in yoru job come because they have been assigned to you. By your company. Trust in that. It’s enough.

        As a manager, you aren’t required to be morally or intellectually superior to the people you lead. You don’t lead them by virtue of your personal attributes. You lead them because the company has assigned to your position the authority to lead and to manage and to direct. It’s not your personal authority, actually. It’s positional authority.

        As Barbara encouraged: Trust in it. It’s enough.

        I constantly manage tons of people who can do my job. Heck, they’ve DONE my job at some other organization. But right now, this is my job, not theirs, and do they are quite content for me to do it.

    2. hildi*

      Along these lines of positional authority vs relational authority: Check out John Maxwell’s book called “Developing the Leader Within You.” He talks about the five levels of leadership – I taught a class for a few years on the concept of the five levels and it’s good stuff. Ties in directly to what Barbara is talking about here!

  12. Not So NewReader*

    And I have a story, too.

    My father died in front of me. The hospital people came with their carts, drugs and paddles. It was very dramatic. He came back to life. Which was even more dramatic, as his condition was terrible. Weeks later he died. Again. But for real.

    Fast-forward, several years later I am at work. I get word that I have to take a first aid course. I was pretty tense. We get to the CPR part and I could not hide my tears. Matter of fact, my base-line goal for self-control was to remain in the room and not run out of the room. Finally, it came my turn. I could barely do what I was supposed to do. The instructor knew something was terribly wrong but did not know what. She talked me through what to do. I got through it to get credit for the course. And after that the woman spoke to me. She was very kind and she did not think anything less of me for my tears. She simply acknowledge that this would be very difficult for someone who had been through what I had seen. (So simple, yet so freeing.)

    In that moment, I learned something about being professional and being human. I learned that when my turn comes and some one melts in front of me, I must remember the way the woman spoke to me and pass her gift forward.

    1. Mimmy*

      Your story brought tears to my eyes. (((hugs))) I’m not so sure I would have half the strength you have. A wonderful lesson in empathy.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Thanks for the kind words and the e-hugs. I had that rag doll feeling. She treated me with dignity when I felt my dignity had walked out of the room by itself. I’m hoping our OP sees that you do come out the other side of these things, and sometimes you get to see people at their extraordinary best.

      2. Chloe*

        That bought tears to my eyes as well, thats a deeply difficult experience to go through. Its lovely of you to share that.

    2. afiendishthingy*

      I’m so sorry for what you went through. I’m really glad the instructor was empathetic and took the time afterwards to speak with you.

      Not nearly as bad, but the first time I had crisis intervention/restraint training was about a year after I got mugged (by two teenage girls, weirdly, but I am very petite and they were bigger than me, they came up behind me and grabbed me, punched me in the face, and took my purse). This particular protocol talks a lot about our natural fight or flight responses, and the instructor kept referring to a hypothetical “somebody jumps you on the street” example for how we would react. My experience was nowhere near as tragic as yours and I did have to leave the room in tears. Although the instructors knew something was wrong they did not ask me about it any point, but another woman in the class did come out into the hallway to talk to me and was very kind and empathetic. I think we try to avoid awkward conversations sometimes when people show emotion, but in my experience I really appreciate someone acknowledging when I’m upset– even though I hate to lose my composure.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have done that kind of training so I know what you are talking about. I don’t know if I would have gotten through the class, if I were in your shoes. It’s odd – but yours seems scarier to me because it happened TO you. My situation I just watched, where as you were actually involved in the situation.

        That is really cool about that one woman. Thank heaven for these empathic people, eh?
        I hope the instructor eventually changed the way he presented the material. There really is no need to keep referencing that particular scenario.

        1. Anonymoose*

          It’s amazing how your perspective changes once an experience hits home. My sister-in-law was burned in an accident when she was a child. Whenever I hear a TV sitcom make an offhand joke about a “burn victim” (not as uncommon in comedy writing as you’d think) I get really sad and offended.

        2. hildi*

          “There really is no need to keep referencing that particular scenario.”
          I always agree with you NSNR on your perspectives and I know what you’re trying to say here with this in context, except I will put out my plea on behalf of trainers: Sometimes we use examples because they are a common frame of reference for people. And often we have no idea if someone in the class has experience with someone we’re talking about. Case in point: I was doing a class where I was talking about empathy. I showed a very cool video from the Cleveland Clinic (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDDWvj_q-o8). I watched it a dozen times before using it and each time I was brought to some tears. I knew it was risky becuase it was so provacative emotionally but I thought the way I was using it to demonstrate the point that you just have no clue what people are facing each time you have an encounter with them. I got a lot of good feedback on it, except for one woman (and this was on the online eval after the class). She absolutely excoriated me for using it beacuse how dare I use that when her husband has cancer and she doesn’t want to be reminded of it in a training class?! I was incredibly unprofessional and unempathetic to do that.

          Ugh. It gutted me hearing that. Of course I felt for this woman and would never knownigly hurt someone. But I made a calucated decision to show it because it really proved some training points we were making, etc. So I stopped using it. It wasn’t worth the risk to upset someone else again. So….stometimes we get so locked into our training points and/or the examples that have always worked well in the past that we just sometimes don’t know the context everyone is bringing with them. Lesson learned.

          However, as I read back your comment I suppose you meant that the dude could have shut up once he saw someone flee the room after using that example? I agree. :)

    3. Waiting Patiently*

      My son fractured his patella one day while outside playing with his friends. And i being CPR and First Aid trained for the past 5-6 years at that point could not handle the situation without my daughter, who was maybe 13 at the time, talking me through it. Every time I got flustered, she calmed me. I was so embarrassed and questioned my abilities. About a year later, I was taking a crisis intervention course and I shared my story then as I listened to others share their own stories I ‘realized’ it was okay. I had a moment of personal crisis because of the nature of the situation. I needed help and that help came through the calming voice of my daughter.

    4. Simonthegrey*

      A friend of mine’s adult son died of a seizure last summer. Understandably, she was absolutely devastated. When last year’s school started (we work at a college), she was up-front with her students from the first day about his death, because she knew there would be times she might lose it in class or just not be all there. Just admitting that to them made the students so much more sympathetic and empathetic to her situation. They were able to be supportive, but she was still able to maintain the boundaries needed between teachers and students.

    5. hildi*

      Do you remember what the trainer said to you? I haven’t had any strong displays of emotion in any of my classes so far (I’m sure my time is coming), but don’t know that I’d know how to handle it. Primarily because I am the type of person that if I’m dealing with something, I’ll let you know what I want you to know. So I often don’t ask people personal questions becuse I figure if they wanted me to know something they’d just tell me. However, I discovered there’s a whole other type of thinking that people won’t offer information unless asked! So, if I got emotional in class I’d not want anyone to ask me about it. I’d deal with it on my own later, case closed. But obviously it’s good human interaction to show concern – it’s a fine balance I’d like to learn as a presenter.

      1. hildi*

        What I mean is I haven’t had any participants show strong emotion and I would like to know a generic way to approach it to show my concern, but not pry too much.

        Yes, people I am a “professional communicator” for a living. you wouldn’t know it here. Sheesh. :-/

      2. Lamb*

        My thoughts would be 1) to speak to the person privately (don’t ask what’s wrong/if they’re ok within the training/talking to the whole class setting) and 2) use your phrases like “I don’t mean to pry”, “if there’s something I can help with”, “if you need ___” (a moment, me to use a different example…)
        As for the Cleveland Clinic video you mentioned, could you give hour classes the link and the option to stay for a few minutes after you officially end class to watch it or to watch it at home if they prefer? I didn’t click the link, but if it’s as illustrative as you say, it would be a shame for all your students to miss out because one woman thinks she would forget that her husband has cancer in the course of your class if it hadn’t been for that video.

        1. Loose Seal*

          I’m late to this but I’d keep showing the video. You can do like trainers did when I had my foster care training, which is really stressful and can hit all sorts of buttons you never thought you had: Warn people up front what the content is and that it might be disturbing. Invite people to step out of the room if they need to.

          Sometimes training has in it things we wish we didn’t have to see. If that video is good for your training session, then you have to take the chance that someone might get upset but that, with warning, they can take care of themselves.

  13. TotesMaGoats*

    A. If your student workers are worth their counseling salt, confidentiality and ethics requirements would lead them to keeping their mouths shut (in a gossipy sense) and respecting you as the “client” and not letting it color their interactions with you as their boss.

    B. I can speak from experience, they are FAR MORE concerned about what they are saying/doing in this video than your reaction. Having watched myself on video and listened in audio to my own “practice” sessions while in grad school, it was much more about what I was saying or doing than the client. Yes, I’m wanting to elicit a response and explore the issues but it’s how I’m doing it that’s important.

  14. fposte*

    OP, the paradox here is that not worrying about diminishing your authority gives you *more* authority; treating your behavior as acceptable and unremarkable under the circumstances–which it was–enhances your credibility. If you fret and excuse and defend, that could hurt you, but the original experience won’t.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Times ten. Absolutely. I love this point. We don’t admire people for how perfect they are. We admire them for how human they are.

  15. Nicole*

    I’m in a masters program for counseling psychology. If these students do report to you, and they see you come up in the video, they most likely will ask to be excused while the video is reviewed. It’s an ethical boundary and observing any PHI from you if they have another relationship aside from counselor and client may be an ethical violation. If it were my class and I saw my boss come up on screen, (or even just a coworker) I would voice my concerns and the instructor would more tha likely let you leave. Don’t worry too much :) most of us are empathetic rather than judgmental.

      1. Another Therapist (and regular commenter)*

        I can see how it might feel that way from the outside, but please believe that it’s *really* not. At least not based on the information we have available. The OP didn’t go into detail about it, but usually in these cases, the professor for the class speaks to the volunteers and briefly prepares them, explains that it’s for training, and gets their consent.

        OP, I think this sounds like a good experience for all involved- as their manager, you can set a great example by being proud of what you did and showing that, for the sake of your integrity, you took their education seriously and let down your guard. And now that it’s back to work, you’re comfortable with that and confident about having been vulnerable in an appropriate situation.
        I think that asking them to destroy the tape or excuse themselves (they might on their own) or revoking your consent, while completely your prerogative, would make it seem like something shameful happened, which it didn’t, and would make it a much bigger deal than necessary.

  16. barefeet45*

    It is totally ok that it happened! But if you are really concerned, you could ask that your taped session not be used in the class. In fact, when I was in school and attended our counseling center for a semester, I met with a graduate student in training. All my sessions were taped for the student to review with another professor later (the tapes would be destroyed after the instructional review). However, I had to sign a consent form saying this was ok. If you weren’t made aware that the tapes would be used for a class, you have every right to ask they skip over yours!

  17. Melly*

    I know this wasn’t research, but did you sign a consent form before you volunteered? There might be a place on the form that would allow you to revoke consent, in which case they have to destroy your records.

  18. GrumpyBoss*

    I think this may even humanize you a little to your directs! I don’t think this is a bad thing at all.

  19. AA*

    I don’t want to be negative, but I have to say this sentence raised an eyebrow for me: “I decided to share about a difficult decision I need to make – while I’m struggling to make up my mind, I’ve talked openly about this decision with my friends, pastor, boss, and others.”

    I think the OP deserves the benefit of the doubt, because depending on a) what the issue is and b) what the work culture is like, that could all be 100% appropriate. But depending on the same factors, it could also be less than appropriate. I honestly can’t think of a whole lot of situations that you would discuss with both a spiritual adviser and your boss (though I’m sure they exist). Just another aspect to perhaps keep in mind.

    1. Anon*

      I think that a truly major life decision that impacts all facets of your life would be appropriate to discuss with all of the above. Say, something like going back to school, taking a professional opportunity that would uproot your life, or moving abroad or to a drastically different part of the country – it would be totally appropriate to discuss the professional repercussions with a boss if you have a mentor-mentee relationship, and you would probably want to discuss the effects on your personal life with friends, family, and/or a spiritual advisor.

  20. Cari*

    If your direct reports and students were to judge you for getting emotional during a counselling training session, they would so be in the wrong field.
    It’s always good to be reminded our coworkers and managers are human beings too, with real human issues and emotions to deal with. Puts things we may not otherwise understand about their behaviour in the workplace, into context :)

    1. Lamb*

      +100 for your student reports needing to behave appropriately! It would make sense to give the professor a heads up to your relationship with those students if you haven’t yet incase the professor has their own rule about using those tapes in class, but it is their job as councilors-to-be to keep what they know from that context separate from all their other contact with a client. If you haven’t discussed that issue with or in front of them and either one brings up something they could only know from the tapes (be sure of both of these things), you can shut it down with “I’d rather not discuss that right now,” and contact their professor immediately, because a councilor cannot be doing that.

  21. Anon*

    I agree with others that the OP should remember that the students in the class are counseling students – hopefully, they are a self-selected group of empathetic people who understand the power of a therapist’s office and would never hold that type of thing against someone. If they would think less of you for seeing you at a vulnerable moment in the context of therapy, they won’t make good counselors at all!

    Also, if everyone involved in the sessions were trying to maintain professional decorum, it wouldn’t be a very useful experience for the students. If I were one of your student workers, I would appreciate that you were willing to be genuine with my classmates and provide a more realistic counseling experience.

  22. AW*

    It’s surprising how emotions can sneak up on you and kick you in the guts. I went to a comedy show recently and the comedian was telling a story about a family problem her friend had. Something very similar happened to me years ago and it’s not something I thought about in a long time. My reaction took me my surprise I was really upset and way more emotional than I think I’ve ever been.

    Showing emotion is natural and nothing to be embarrassed about and I wouldn’t give it another thought no one will judge you for it

  23. minuteye*

    I do research at a university with human subjects where we make audio recordings (not in the psychology department) and a fundamental piece of our ethics is that participants can withdraw consent at any time. They can back out beforehand, they can leave part-way through the interview, and they can call up later and tell us to destroy their audio/not publish using their information. This sometimes happens when someone realizes afterwards that they talked about confidential information, sensitive material, or not-entirely-legal stuff.

    Now, it’s possible that the place where you work does things differently… but it seems highly unlikely to me. All you should need to do is contact someone involved in the research (either your direct contact or the person in charge of the project) and tell them that you’re no longer comfortable with your videos being shown in class. An ethical researcher should have no problem with that, and no one should ask you to justify that decision.

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