Students have a right to be informed of the specific nature of course and program requirements before they enter a program and to be aware that many aspects of their program will involve their participating in personal ways to learn both about themselves and to learn the art of counseling. Students who apply to a counseling program must be made aware of the fact that counseling involves a personal investment, which goes beyond gaining knowledge and acquiring skills. Prospective students need to be cognizant that they will be affected personally in many of their courses (as well as throughout their careers). Students have a right to be informed about the ramifications of self-disclosing personal information in an academic setting, as well as being told about the rationale for becoming personally involved in their program. Prospective students who harbor negative attitudes about this approach to learning may need to be advised to explore other educational opportunities or career paths that do not require such a personal investment.
Shumaker, Ortiz, and Brenninkmeyer (2011) recommend that experiential groups include a detailed informed consent process and train students in learning what constitutes appropriate self-disclosure in such a group. Clear guidelines must be established so students know their rights and responsibilities. We echo the importance of a thorough informed consent process and recognize that it puts pressure on both the instructor and the students as it requires honesty, maturity, and professionalism. Even with safeguards in place, students may be hesitant to share meaningful personal information if they have an undue fear of the gatekeeping function of the experiential part of the group class. Group leaders should be prepared to understand and process this hesitation in a way that respects students’ concerns. In addition, systematic self-reflection on the part of the instructor is a critical component for promoting a positive experiential group experience.