Counselling Psychology »



Active listening and other skills are usable in many settings and they Often used by counsellors as part of their work:

1. Preparation of Counsellors and the setting before beginning - Establishment of appropriate framework so speaker knows what is on offer.

2. Attention to the counsellors' body language - (SOLER: Seating, Open Posture, Trunk lean, Eye contact, Relaxation avoid tense mannerisms)


3. Observation - (of the speaker's body language and tone of voice and general style of interaction) in relation to what they are saying.

4. Listening with concentraton to the content of the narrative - (the activities, thoughts and feelings described by the speaker). Focus on the whole picture rather than memorising every detail.

5. Accepting silence at times - Reflecting silence sometimes.

6. Thinking about what counsellors are hearing and observing and putting it together in your mind. May want to think about the process (the way the person tells the story). May want to think about your own reactions

7. Responding by Reflecting, paraphrasing, clarifying Repeating a version in your own words of what the speaker has said or done, and checking to see that counsellors have get it right helps the speaker feel that they are getting through to you.(In person-centred terms, counsellos are aiming to respond from a position of empathic experiencing of the other person's frame of reference; the responding should not be a mechanical parroting.)

8. Appropriate questioning - Try to avoid questions at start of a session if you want to reduce the appearance of being an expert with power to cure. Always ask yourself why you are asking this question. It should always be for the benefit of the speaker, not for your own curiosity, not as an indirect way of giving advice, not to break silence and not to rescue speaker from uncomfortable thought. Closed, multiple, and why questions are generally less welcome. May be helpful to ask a question to help person explore further something that has been hinted at or stated in a very general way, or to help decide which of various issues to focus on at first.

9. Summarising - A combination of the various types of responding but over a larger amount of content. Often useful as a preliminary to help the speaker identify a focus.

10. Focusing - Helping speaker to identify and stick to issue/area they want to attend to now.

11. Challenging - Could be helping person be specific rather than vague when they are describing their situation and feelings. Could be trying to tune up or tune down level of speaker's involvement in feelings so that they can become aware of feelings, or alternatively calm the feelings sufficiently to think about them. Could include offering an alternative viewpoint for speaker's consideration. Generally ways of inviting person to explore further.

12. Immediacy - Making use of what's happening in relationship between speaker and listener at that moment. Related to an aspect of person-centred congruence.

13. Action planning - Helping speaker think about exactly what want. Helping speaker decide what action to take. Considering obstacles and how to meet them.

14. Ending - Clarity about time frame. Clarity about future meetings. Clarity about referrals if relevant. Awareness of loss.



Aldridge, Sally and Rigby, Sally (2001) BACP Counselling Skills in Context (London: Hodder and Stoughton)


Frankland, Alan and Sanders, Pete (1995), Next Steps in Counselling. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books. Aimed at certificate level courses.








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