Techniques for counseling can vary from authority to authority, from teacher to teacher, but all models will include reference to terms like listening skills, active listening, reflective listening, open and closed ended questions, note taking, paraphrasing, summarizing, homework, non-verbal communication, atttending, empathy, genuineness, unconditional positive regard, concreteness, counselor self-disclosure, interpretation, information giving, encouragement, and removing road blocks to progress.
I think that counseling techniques can be categorized as communication skills rather than counselor theory tools.
Communication skills can be impacted by the theoretical model preferred by the practitioner of course. For example, a person centered counselor may not talk much at all, simply encouraging the client to continue to explore, and a REBT counselor will ask more direct questions. A solution focused client will get to encourage and shout out "congratulations!" more frequently than the other two practioners.
In my experience the single most important technique for counseling in listening.
Listening carefully for what is said and not said is key, in my opinion, to establishing a trusting relationship, which may be the most important criteria for change.
Listening has some key components.
1. Set your intention. I need to make a commitment, reminding myself to pay close attention.
2. The most important part of the listening process for me is repeating my clients words in my own head. This keeps me involved in an empathic experience of my clients world, and also halts the incipient retort, and keeps me from facile offerings of theory.
3. By the same token, my short term memory only holds so much information, so I will need to reflect back to my client what I have heard, and perhaps note for them the feelings I am observing.
4 I will end that reflection by asking if I was accurate in my hearing, and if they say no, then I ask them to repeat for me so I can get their message accurately.
5. Not until they report that my hearing has been accurate do we move on.
Do not forget to pay attention to your tone of voice and body language.
Since most communication is done non-verbally, your client will be paying close attention to your body language, and experiencing congruent or incongruent messages.
Let's hope that your non-verbal and verbal messages are congruent, which means they match up in your clients eyes.
Non-congruent messages are routinely viewed by others as critical judgements, and never checked out. Incongruent communications will create problems for your client, and when you as counselor see them, you need to ask.
I like to use the phrase, "I am confused by what I am seeing and hearing...", and ask for clarification.
Perhaps here is where you teach your client a little about the road map you are using, the theory.
For example, I have not had many clients with any training in any grief model, and when I explain that there is a rhyme and reason to it, that it can be managed and overseen a bit, they are usually relieved that they will not be overwhelmed at a moment when they would prefer not to be overwhelmed, like at work.
I think forgiveness and reconciliation can be modeled also, for example.
Open-ended questions and closed questions can be useful here. Avoid closed questions, those with a yes or no answer, or a single word answer. Those kinds of questions end exploration, and open-ended questions encourage exploration, and new self-awarenesses.
I like to offer interpretations of theory here but phrase them as suggestions, and I ask if it seems to resonate for my client.
I teach much more about brain fitness these days, and what fMRI is teaching us about how counseling impacts the human brain.
I like to reference work by Dr. Judith Beck which indicates that a stress innoculation for spider phobia showed less activation in the amygdala of those undergoing the innoculation after the innoculation, which was their goal.
And when my clients get an insight of an "aha" I love to bless them, to shout out loud encouragements.
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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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