The Techniques of Counseling

Counseling is primarily a relationship in which one person, the helper, seeks to assist another human being with the problems of living. Unlike other relationships, this one is characterized by of clear purpose of helping. The helper’s needs are mostly met elsewhere and he or she does not depend on the client for love or affirmation. One must step out of your own situation and become aware of the client’s needs, and communicate both an understanding and willingness to help.

1. Attending: undivided attention to the client, through…

  1. Eye contact: looking without staring in a way to convey concern.
  2. Posture: relaxed, not tense, leaning toward the client.
  3. Gestures: natural, not excessive or distracting.
  4. Alertness to inner distractions: fatigue, impatience, preoccupation with other matters, daydreaming, and restlessness.

2. Listening: It is more than just the reception of information; one might want to jump into advice-giving and excessive talking, which will prevent the client from really opening up to his feelings and thoughts. Advice is seldom heard and less likely followed. Talking more than listening is a sign of one’s own insecurities or of an inability to handle ambiguous, threatening or emotional situations.

  1. Awareness of one’s own conflicts, to avoid a negative reaction.
  2. Avoiding subtle verbal or nonverbal expressions of judgment.
  3. Waiting patiently through periods of silence or tears.
  4. Hearing not only what the persons says, but what he tries to say.
  5. Use ears and eyes to detect the tone or posture with the spoken message.
  6. Scanning one’s own reaction to the client.
  7. Avoid looking away from the client as he or she speaks.
  8. Sitting still, to not be distractive.
  9. Limit the number of mental excursions into one’s own fantasies.
  10. Control one’s feelings that interfere with an accepting, sympathetic, nonjudgmental attitude.
  11. Realizing that accepting the counselee is possible with condoning attitudes and behavior destructive of the client or others.

3. Responding: Jesus was a good listener (like with those on the Emmaus Road) but His helping was characterized by action and specific verbal responses.

  1. Leading: The counselor slightly anticipates the client’s direction of thought and responds in a way that redirects the conversation. “Can you elaborate on…?” “What happened then?” “What did you mean by…?”
  2. Reflecting: This is a way of letting the counselee know that you are “with them” and you understand how the counselee must be feeling or thinking. “You must feel…” or “I bet that was frustrating.” Avoid stereotypical phrases like, “You must think…” or “What I hear you saying is…” A brief summary of what has been going on can be reflective, and will stimulate more conversation.
  3. Questioning: Offer open-ended questions that require the counselee to give more than a single sentence answer. “Tell me about your marriage” is better than “Are you happy in your marriage.” Questions beginning with the word “why” should be avoided since they will tend to either sound judgmental, or stimulate long intellectual discussions which avoid coming to grips with real feelings or hurts.
  4. Confronting: This is presenting some idea to the client that he or she might not see otherwise. clients can be confronted with sin, failures, inconsistencies, or self-defeating behavior and encouraged to change their attitudes or behavior. This is best done in a loving, gentle, nonjudgmental manner. Nevertheless, it will often bring anger, guilt and resistance, or it could lead to confession and forgiveness.
  5. Informing: This involves giving facts to people in need of information, which is different from the counselor giving his opinion or advice. Advice-givers often lack enough knowledge of a situation to give competent advice, and that advice encourages the client to become dependent upon the counselor. If the advice doesn’t work, the counselor is the one who is made to feel the responsibility for giving bad advice.
  6. Interpretation: This involves explaining to the client what his or her behavior or other events mean. This can help the person see himself as he has not before. This can be harmful if the person is not emotionally prepared for the interpretation, or if the interpretation is wrong. Present the interpretation in a tentative way “Could it be that…” and allow the client time to respond.
  7. Supporting and encouraging: When people are burdened by needs and conflicts they can benefit from the stability and care of an empathetic person who shows acceptance and can give reassurance. It is includes guiding the client to take an inventory of his or her own spiritual and psychological resources, encouraging action and helping with any problems or failures that may come as a result of this action.

4. Teaching: All of these techniques are really specialized forms of psychological education. The counselor teaches the client by guiding him or her on how to cope with life’s problems. This sort of teaching is more effective when addressing specific situations: “How can I control my temper when I am criticized by my wife?” is better then the nebulous, “I want to be happier.” A powerful learning tool use by counselors is immediacy, which involves the ability of the counselor and the client to discuss directly and openly what is happening in the here-and-now of their relationship. “I feel very frustrated with you right now,” or “I’m getting angry because I feel you are putting me down,” are responses of immediacy, an on the spot expression of how one feels in a given situation.

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