Counseling Skills

Listening

As a counselor, the mastery of listening skills is essential for handling patients. Even if a counselor carefully listens to a patient without offering advice or suggestions, the patient is likely to feel relieved from a burden. Listening sometimes has a healing power on a client. Clients feel their problem is shared or minimized when they get a listening counselor. Additionally, listening expands counselor knowledge, experience, and skills in various concepts and sharpens the understanding of different people. People who fail to listen effectively may be blind to particular ideas and are categorized as incompetent. Listening prepares a counselor on the approach to take on a client and gives him/her a better understanding of the subject. Listening skills are classified as active listening, verbal listening, and non-verbal listening.

           Active/ Emphatic listening involves listening to obtain meaning from a patient. The counselor may not talk at all but may ask for clarification from the client to understand correctly. The patient controls the conversation and exercises a high level of freedom in self-expression. However, the counselor contributes to active listening by incorporating verbal and non-verbal components and conveying what he/she has heard from the conservation. The counselor can also touch the client to enhance the counseling process. Emphatic listening involves paying attention to what is not mentioned, noting the tone, facial expression, hand movements, and words. Active listening barriers include personal values, distraction, impatience, prejudgment, colliding cultures, relating client stories with your life, and language difference.

           In verbal listening, the counselor mentions words that reassure the client of attention. The counselor determines the progress of the conversation by encouraging the patient to dig deep in their story. The terms that set the talk engine include ‘yes,’ ‘uh-huh,’ ‘yeah,’ and ‘mmm.’ On the other hand, non-verbal listening uses body language to enhance the communication process. Non-verbal listening includes putting on a friendly and welcoming face, leaning towards the client, using an open posture, maintaining eye contact without staring, relaxing, and directly facing the patient. A counselor is responsible for showing interest in learning more from the patient than what he/she provides. Therefore, the counselor should use emotional, exciting words to entice the client to offer more in-depth details. For instance, the supervisor should use words such as ‘tell me more,’ ‘really’ and ‘uh-huh.’ Furthermore, the counselor should look interested in the topic to keep the conversation hot and avoid interrupting the client (Perinatal Mental Health Project, n.d.).

Empathy

Empathy in counseling involves understanding the patient’s perspective and conveying the idea to the person to clarify and modify their experience and intended purpose. A counselor does not necessarily have to experience a situation similar to that of the client to be empathetic. An empathetic counselor places himself/herself in the client’s shoes and firmly relates to the individual’s feelings. Clients are likely to open up and spill out their hearts in a comfortable environment. An empathetic counselor needs to listen to the client, take down notes, and recall the client’s essential messages. The counselor also needs to identify the message’s content and incline more efforts on it to avoid losing concentration. Empathy is cemented by rephrasing, summarizing, and reflecting the client’s messages.

           Rephrasing makes a patient feel understood by the counselor. The counselor may get further clarification from restating things mentioned by the client or maybe corrected in case of misunderstanding. A firm grasp of rephrasing skills also enables the counselor to keep the patient talking and supplying information without withholding. The patient tends to open up after sensing the counselor is following the story and understanding the experiences. The counselor needs to use different words from the ones used by the client to strengthen the talk. Repetition of words may bore the client and reduce the morale of delivering more content (Ramsay, 2019). Additionally, empathetic rephrasing requires the counselor to restate the content and feelings. However, the counselor should monitor the language selected to make it respectful or avoid misguiding the customer. The words employed during rephrasing include ‘you sound,’ ‘I gather,’ ‘I am not sure if you,’ ‘in other words,’ ‘you are saying,’ ‘I hear you saying’ among others (Perinatal Mental Health Project, n.d.).

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           The counselor can also reinforce empathetic skills by affirmation method. The counselor may encourage a patient by affirming the sound decisions he/she makes. Affirmation boosts the client’s esteem and develops a festive spirit for facing life boldly. Affirmation lures the client and creates a winning attitude in the mind of the person. The example of words that play a significant role in affirming customers includes ‘you should be proud of yourself,’ ‘well done,’ ‘congratulations,’ ‘it is difficult to make such a step.’ Affirmation could also start at the beginning of counseling sessions by praising the patient for availing for the meeting. Highlighting the client’s fundamental areas, feelings, or ideas also helps build a strong foundation of empathy. Summarizing also allows the client to give extra attention to the counselor’s recommendation since he/she feels accepted and understood.  

Interpretation

Interpretation involves generating a new reason, meaning, feeling, or explanation of a client’s behavior. A counselor with practical interpretation skills enables a patient to collect the broken pieces of a problem and develop a reliable decision. The interpretation techniques should guide the client in making a decision. However, the counselor should be keen on crafting interpretations to ensure the deduction provokes the patient intrinsically. If the counselor fails to formulate analysis without looking at gauging the client, the counseling process may be unsuccessful. The client may temporally adopt a particular cause and abandon it after a while due to a lack of extra motivation to stick to the lane. The counseling process is mostly client-centered, and therefore emphasis should be on the client. Although the counselor is an expert in the counseling process, the client is the most suitable person for appropriate solutions. The counselor may give recommendations or interpret information, but implementing changes lies with the patient. Consequently, interpretation skills should be exercised with diligence if a favorable outcome is desired (Drab, n.d.).

Nevertheless, interpretation may help clients in cases where they desperately need some direction towards a goal. A counselor should utilize such authority to coach the customer in the right direction that best suits them (not according to the counselor’s specifications). In cases where the client needs interpretations, they should be brief to avoid losing patient concentration. Moreover, construal should be based on facts and relevant information and feelings. The performances opt to be free from generalization, stereotype, or influence from external forces other than the patient. The development of concrete counseling skills works by reminding the patient of their duty, identifying and rectifying various problems, and using suggestions and questions to help lay facts. 

Interpretation counseling techniques demand the counselor to show genuineness, empathy, and warmth.  A genuine counselor is transparent and can demonstrate their real character without interfering with a client. The counselor needs to be comfortable addressing patients to influence positive results from the customers. The beliefs of the counselor should not collide with the client’s thoughts. Genuineness becomes possible when the guardian’s verbal and non-verbal signs should demonstrate high levels of satisfaction. A counselor also needs to understand the client and be flexible to anything that may come along while interpreting data. For instance, a patient may reject the helper’s insight, but it may not mean they are resistant, or you are a failure. Basically, the counselor needs to be non-judgmental while dealing with the clients for optimum results. Gender, racial or ethnic disparities should not hamper the counseling process.

Building a rapport

Creating a connection with a client plays a significant role in facilitating a successful counseling process. A client is likely to deliver more in a friendly environment. A strained relationship with a customer may limit the willingness to open up on specific information. Sometimes the client needs to view clients as a friend and someone to share problems easily. However, the relationship should be professional to avoid corrupting the counseling sessions. The counselor should avoid getting emotional attachments with patients and should monitor the patient’s feelings. In many cases, emotionally vulnerable patients mistake counselors care with love and may, therefore, make sexual advances. The counselor must be careful while building a rapport to avoid passing the wrong information to the clients. Likewise, a counselor needs to be cautious of his/her feelings for a successful counseling session.

Building a rapport determines the success of counseling stages, including the exploration stage, understanding stage, and action stage. The exploration stage is characterized by a high percentage of client talk, while in the understanding phase; the counselor demonstrates empathy, warmth, flexibility, and genuineness. During the action stage, the counselor assists the patient in decision making. The development of a sense of closeness in therapy relations requires a counselor to embrace diversity, simplified by the RESPECTFUL model. Competence of the counseling cube is an essential requirement for a counselor to handle people with different religious beliefs (R), economic ability (E), sexual identity (S), psychological traits (P), ethnic and racial origin (E), chronological order (C), trauma (T), family origin (F), unique traits (U) and geographical location (G). For instance, people from different ethnic and racial groups have different approaches and perspectives on eye maintenance, facial expression, hand movement, and body language. Therefore, the counselor must understand client origin and establish an appropriate mechanism for creating a friendly environment. Some Asian American clients may view direct eye maintenance as impolite, and a counselor could need to minimize the skill’s use. Likewise, questioning, repetitive paraphrasing, and summarizing may be interpreted as offensive by some Native American clients. A counselor may need to utilize different skills when handling such clients. Counselors should be culturally competent to build fruitful rapport with clients. Economic differences and sexual identity are among other components that require specific techniques to enable a productive counseling session (Walz & Bleuer, 2009). 

References

Drab, K. J. (n.d.). The Top Ten Basic Counseling Skills. https://www.people.vcu.edu/~krhall/resources/cnslskills.pdf

Perinatal Mental Health Project. (n.d.). Basic Counselling Skills A Guide for health workers in maternal care. https://www.mhinnovation.net/sites/default/files/downloads/innovation/tools/PMHP-Basic-Counselling-Skills.pdf

Ramsay, K. (2019, April 12). The core counselling skills of a highly effective Achologist. Medium. https://medium.com/achology/the-core-counselling-skills-of-a-highly-effective-achologist-9217e365132c

Walz, G. R., & Bleuer, J. C. (2009). Adapting Counseling Skills for Multicultural and Diverse Clients. American Nursing Association, 33-42.

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