Skills in Counseling
Basic skills in counseling are amplifications of communication skills. Particularly listening skills. And getting on the same heart beat using your HeartMath skills. More on that later.
Listening and assertive communication are discrete skills that can be learned, and once learned, can be used to enhance any relationship.
In a professional relationship, basic skills in counseling are hopefully communicated by a counselor's enthusiasm, confidence, and belief in the client's ability to change.
Those counselor behaviors are incredibly important in client outcomes, perhaps more important than theory or technique.
Listening Skills in Counseling
Most counseling training describes the discrete skills of listening with similar words, but typically, a listener needs to attend to the speaker, which means position him or herself to indicate to the speaker that the speaker is the center of the listeners attention. Those behaviors can include eye contact, body position, even turning the head to the side, giving the client your ear, so to speak, encouraging comments from the listener, mirroring body positions. (You will be amazed at how much mirroring behavior happens in a session). Since most communication occurs nonverbally, the listeners nonverbal behaviors are critical in the establishment of trust and safety for the speaker, who may be revealing personal secrets never before revealed.
So the listener needs to set in his or her mind an intention to create ans sustain attending.
And there will be times when your attention drifts. Reset your intention and come back to the session. Your speaker, who is watching you intently, will see your attention shift. You many need to say something about being struck by your speakers comment, and following it out of the session, and ask them to repeat it.
The next important part of listening is to capture the verbal and nonverbal communication of the speaker.
You will be listening for the story line or chronology typically, and I like to listen for patterns of speech, for example, the use of words like should, ought, and must, which can point to a pattern of thinking. Listening will involve hearing what was not said also.
Listening will include observing the process or nonverbal communications. For example, a client may become particularly animated when mentioning one situation, or excited at another, and I want to be able to check with them about that nonverbal communication.
Empathy Skills in Counseling
Empathy to me means the ability to name the emotions I am observing and to ask the speaker if I am accurate in my perceptions.
When I do this, I often see speakers calm down, as they experience being heard respectfully. Oftentimes, my speakers just need to be heard respectfully. In other words, the do not need me to solve the problem, but to listen to and recognize their feelings.
The Discrete Skills associated with empathy include listening, and reflecting patient feelings and implicit messages, in an "I" statement usually.
A reflection might go something like this, "O.K., here is what it sounds like so far, you are angry about your _____, did I hear you accurately?
If the speaker replies that I did not hear them accurately, I ask them to repeat, and then I listen and reflect again, and again if need be, until the speaker says that my reflection is accurate.
Remember that all I am doing here is listening, like a tape recorder, no interpretation, judgement, or problem solving yet.
I am hearing in a supportive and accepting way only.
Kevin J. Drab, in his PDF called The Top Ten Basic Counseling Skills, reports that this process of paraphrasing includes four steps.
1.Listen and recall. The entire client message to ensure you recalled it in its entirety. Repeat the speakers words in your own head, and this does take attention and intention, and is so important.
2.Get clear on the content of the message. Get the details down.
3.Rephrase or repeat back to the client an essential summary of details and feelings.
4.Ask if you have heard the message accurately.
Genuiness Skills in Counseling
The listener is congruent in their verbal and nonverbal behaviour, which indicates your comfort with the other human being in your presence.
I like to think that this 'other soul' deserves to be heard respectfully, no matter what the behavior. Reminding myself of that commitment helps my sustain genuine interest in my client.
If my nonverbal communication indicates incongruence, that is, my words are reassuring, but nonverbals indicate tension, the speaker is less likely to feel safe.
Unconditional Positive Regard
Skills in counseling include an internal acknowledgement that the speaker is acceptable, and an acceptance is conveyed through nonjudgemental verbal and nonverbal behaviors.
Concreteness Skills in Counseling
Concreteness skill in counseling involves helping the client to identify and work on a specific problem from the various problems presented. It might also involve keeping the client on track with that problem in this session, clarifying facts, terms, feelings, goals, and uses a hear and now focus to emphasize issues in today's session.
I know deep and powerful change is possible. I have done it and I have seen others do it, and I think it is important to communicate to your client that change is very available and possible, but not predictable.
There are a number of ways to communicate optimism about change, teach a bit about the cognitive behavioral model, which says pay attention to your self-talk, teach the Csikszentmihalyi FLOW way, teach stress management tools, or Open Focus, or have your client try the dual n back task to grow their IQ, or even have your client try the HeartMath tool, to learn that they can manage an internal process that is not usually available to conscious control, which is heart rate variability.
Learning HeartMath helps your client operate from an affiliative and cooperative heart intelligence, and as the grow in their realization of how good they can get at this skill, their confidence about their ability to impact any other issue grows.
A wonderful side effect of HeartMath? It opens the higher perceptual centers of the brain for problem solving.
And for you counselors and educators out there, can you imagine working with someone when you are on the same heart beat with them?
Want to Increase Your IQ? Read the Research Before You Reject It.
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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.
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