Skills for counseling are initially very similar to social skills.
Counselors are usually interested in connection with others, and recognize that connection in the check out line at the super market will involve different levels of skills than connecting during a session with a client they have worked with for some time.
The National Enquirer headlines are always good for a laugh, and a silly comment or two for the folks waiting in line can brighten the day for everyone.
So it would seem that the first skill for counseling would be a curiousity, not nosiness, but curiousity about others.
How to express that in a way that respects the other is an important distinction between check out line banter and the counseling session.
Here are some ideas for social skills and how to express them which will be magnified in the counseling session.
They smile and share their good mood with others.
They know how to "small talk" and don't find it offensive or demeaning to do so. They understand that it is inappropriate (and often frightening) for people to share too much too soon. Small talk is a way of sharing very little, but still expressing interest in another person. After a little small talk, people feel more comfortable, and (depending on the relationship and the situation) deeper subjects may be brought up.
They ask the people they interact with about themselves, expressing interest in their life and interests. They know that people like to talk about themselves, and will typically appreciate the audience.
They use body language to communicate their interest:
* They lean forward slightly rather than reclining backwards
* They look at people when they talk to them, making eye contact frequently
* Their arms and legs are open, rather than crossed and closed.
* They do their best to remember the contents of conversations, and show people they remember when they meet again. They know that people are appreciative of being remembered.
* They are polite. For example, they say, "Thank you" when someone makes them a compliment, and "I'm sorry", when they want to express concern or apologize.
* They make sure they are reasonably well groomed, so that people don't look at them and form a negative first impression.
* They behave reasonably well, showing awareness that they are in a public place. For example, they don't pick their nose or scratch their buttocks.
* They are willing to be vulnerable as becomes appropriate to the situations they find themselves in. They aren't closed people, but instead are willing to share themselves appropriately. They are sensitive to the possibility of oversharing (saying too much, too soon), and avoid doing that.
Skills for counseling in the session involve much more focus for me on listening, and there are discreet skill involved in listening, particularly repeating my clients words in my head, and then repeating them back to them, and asking if I heard them accurately.
If the client says no, I was not accurate we repeat the process until my client says that I did hear them accurately.
While doing the reflective listening, I am attending, which means looking at them, nodding, encouraging a continuing exploration, and responding with compassion.
I love to encourage clients to remember times when they have been successful at at an important task, and to remind them that they have the skills to handle this current problem in their lives, and they they may simply need to refine or adopt those skills to this problem.
Then maybe I teach a bit of what I call "the roadmap", so they get a sense that a rhyme and a reason for their current experience exists.
Clients appreciate getting a picture from a 1000 feet up, again of the roadmap.
Maybe the most important question in my skills of counseling tool kit is my first question, "What has changed since your call?", which indicates that success has begun, let us find out where it is happening and do more, and the next most important tool would be homework, which indicates that the exploration and learning process continues after they leave my office.
And maybe part of their homework will be to strike up a conversation with someone at the grocery store check-out line about a National Enquirer headline.
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.
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