Many people choosing a career in counseling are naturally intuitive and empathetic, and these traits can be important in establishing a professional and successful helping relationship. Developing a basis of trust with your client is the critical foundation on which positive change can occur in counseling. Advanced counseling techniques that utilize effective communication skills will assist in strengthening the counselor’s interpersonal skills and building a trust foundation with clients.
Active listening is one of our most effective communication tools. It involves paying close attention, not just to the speaker’s content, but also nuance, attitude, and intent. When engaging with a client, the professional counselor must demonstrate a level of understanding and connection to the spoken words that reflects caring and responsiveness. This includes using appropriate eye contact and body language, and picking up on verbal cues.
In advanced counseling techniques, you learn to incorporate active listening by reflecting back key points of the interview to the client. Reflecting is one action component of active listening. Paraphrasing, mirroring, or reflecting what has been heard and understood from the client is a way to ascertain if the communication was accurately received. It enables both the client and counselor to elaborate or clarify, if necessary.
By establishing an atmosphere in which the client will feel heard and understood, the professional counselor is better able to thoroughly integrate the client's presenting information into the session. This aids both the client and the counselor in establishing a trusting rapport.
Observing Nonverbal Behaviors
Observing and noting a client’s nonverbal behaviors also provides you with valuable insight and information during the counseling process. Nonverbal communication, or kinesics, may include body language through gestures, position of the body, posture, use of personal space, and affect. Culturally competent counselors learn that nonverbal behaviors often vary greatly across cultures and must be attuned to those inherent differences.
Using advanced counseling techniques allows you to incorporate what is being conveyed by the client’s nonverbal behaviors with the content and context of the verbal expression. Accurately assessing this total communication picture will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the client and their concerns.
The use of the therapeutic skill of immediacy is powerful and can be an extremely effective change agent in counseling. While there are various definitions for immediacy, the one most widely accepted refers to utilizing the here and now to help the client understand how they are responding to an issue that may be affecting them. Immediacy can challenge the client to examine a problem in real time with open, focused feedback from the counselor. When used appropriately, this technique can yield insight into specific behaviors or relationships.