NCPS | Navigating Ethical Quandaries: Step by Step Counselling…

Thank you to Simon Heath from NCPS training provider, Step by Step Counselling College, for this blog. We enjoy the dilemmas, and hope to be able to play the game one day!

Step by Step Counselling Board Game
Step by Step Counselling College's 'What Would You Do?' Dilemmas Board Game

In the ever-evolving field of counselling, practitioners constantly face complex ethical and moral dilemmas. How should a counsellor respond when a client's confidentiality is at odds with their safety? What actions should be taken when a conflict of interest arises? At Step by Step Counselling College, we have found an innovative way to prepare our students for these challenging scenarios through our "What Would You Do?" dilemmas.

At Step by Step Counselling College, we believe that creative thinking is key to education. Recognising the importance of practical experience, we have devised a series of 'What Would You Do?' dilemmas. These hypothetical situations are designed to simulate the real-life challenges counsellors face, fostering critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and empathetic understanding among students.

From Classroom to Board Game

As part of our Diploma course, we host a series of free Keep in Touch evenings where students can meet up, get to know one another, discuss all-things-counselling and keep their hand in at skills practice. The evenings are a mix of informal relationship making and contracted discussion – we wanted something that would be fun and get people thinking. To do this, we created a board game. We worked with Kaz of Stepping Out Counselling and Psychotherapy; at the time she was a trainee counsellor and provided a lot of the dilemmas, providing a great insight into some of the dilemmas that working on placement might create.

The Structure of the Game

The 'What Would You Do?' board game is crafted to simulate a series of counselling sessions – two teams compete to get to the centre and achieve self-actualisation. Each team pick a counter (either Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls, Aaron Beck or Abraham Maslow), and take turns to roll dice to move through a series of counselling sessions. On the way they land on different squares, some of which mean they need to pick ‘Life Cards’, others where they are faced with a dilemma.

  • Life Cards: These will either allow the team to move forward, miss a turn or go back a space. An example might be “You arrive at the venue you are working in and the room has been double booked – move back 2 spaces”

  • Dilemma Cards: Central to the game are the dilemma cards. Each card presents a scenario that requires the team to make a decision based on ethical guidelines and counselling principles. These scenarios range from confidentiality breaches to managing dual relationships and beyond. The teams discuss the dilemmas and decide on the best course to take. The other team are encouraged to also have their say.

We have a lot of fun with the format, often changing elements of the dilemma as part of the discussion so that we can explore different nuances and subtleties. One of the standout features of the game is its direct relevance to real-world counselling – the fact that there are often many different right answers and how we can use the Code of Ethics to help us find our way. By navigating through these dilemmas in a simulated environment, students can test their instincts and reasoning in a safe space; this experiential learning process is invaluable, as it bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application.

Feedback and Evolution

The response to the 'What Would You Do?' board game has been overwhelmingly positive. Students appreciate the hands-on approach to learning, and faculty members have observed a noticeable improvement in students' confidence and ethical decision-making abilities. The game is continually evolving, with new dilemmas added regularly to reflect emerging issues in the counselling field.

The game was the inspiration for the ‘What Would You Dilemmas’ that we post on social media each fortnight. At the time of writing, we are up to 20 dilemmas covering a range of situations from meeting clients outside of the therapeutic relationship to the difficulties that may arise from working online. Links to all the previous dilemmas are posted on our website:

As with the game, the online dilemmas are evolving and we have recently posted a dilemma that examines the counsellor’s moral compass outside of the counselling arena and giving a space for those taking part to write a bit about their thinking. All the online response are anonymous.


By transforming ethical dilemmas into an interactive learning experience, we are hopefully equipping our students with the tools they need to navigate the complexities of their future profession with confidence and integrity. This creative approach not only enhances learning but also strengthens the bonds in the group, giving everyone a voice to explore what they would do, to examine tricky issues in a supportive environment.

If you would like to take part in the fortnightly dilemmas you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.

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