How Graduate-student or Recent Graduate Psychotherapists Experience and Manage Errors in Psychotherapy

Document Type


Publication Date



Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

Source Publication

Counselling Psychology Quarterly

Source ISSN



We explored how graduate-student/recent graduate psychotherapists managed errors committed in psychotherapy, using consensual qualitative research (CQR) to analyze interview data. The 13 graduate-student/recent-graduate psychotherapist participants defined errors as something that leads to negative consequences or harm for clients or psychotherapy, identified inattention to important client factors as the most common error, and reported minimal/no formal graduate training regarding errors. When describing a specific psychotherapy error they had made, they noted a strong pre-error psychotherapy relationship, recounted a range of intrapersonal antecedents to the error, and described the error as their using an approach that was not helpful to the client/psychotherapy. Some realized the error in session via clients’ responses; others’ realization came post-session. The errors led to ruptures in psychotherapy and negative emotional responses in participants, as well as self-doubt; the errors also stimulated participant growth/learning. Participants used supervision to recover from the error and process their thoughts/feelings regarding the error. They also frequently discussed the error with clients, and advised others to be self-compassionate toward the inevitable errors that psychotherapists make. Implications for training, practice, and research are discussed.


Counselling Psychology Quarterly, (2020). DOI.