Foundational Counselling Skills: Types And Features

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Counselling is an opportunity that offers a chance for clients to talk individual and privately to a counsellor, bringing forth their issues with relationships, emotions that are unknown as well as personal problems. A councillor will then be allowed to have a look at your point of view and support you without being judgmental.

Counselling techniques are there to assist people in gaining awareness, comprehension and discover solutions and ways of solving their problems. Counselling tools can prove to be effective if used effectively by a counsellor know when and how to apply them to different individuals.

McLeod (2007) writes that, a counsellor’s techniques can prove to be more affective if their own feelings, self-awareness and thoughts are put to use during a session to make an informed response. When using counselling tools, it is important to keep to time as this helps the counsellor know how their client affects them as well as how the session might affect the client.

In this essay, I reflect on my counselling skills, how I used them and what could be improved. I played the role of counsellor to a client who had a gambling addiction allowing me to use some skills to help gain insight to the problem, consider future solutions to help resolve the issue. By watching a video playback of the session as well as feedback sheets from my peers, I was able to observe my skills. I reflect on how effective and ineffective my counselling tools were and find ways I could improve the use of my skills.

Chloe is a single mother in her early 40s, she lives with her children and has her mothers support to help with children. Her presenting problem is that has a gambling problem. Her family are deeply concerned about her gambling problem as she is in serious financial problems and sometimes unable to buy food for the children. Chloe says she does not see why her family are overly concerned with her gambling although she does acknowledge that she might have a problem.

Chloe comes across as a friendly individual who is slightly reserved. During our session Chloe spoke of how she noticed that her gambling is causing her children to be anxious and are beginning to feel unloved. Chloe seems to be hooked onto gambling with the belief that the more she gambles the more chances to make millions. She feels a high when she gambles and a sense of being a provider. During the session Chloe feels like she is only seeking help just to get her family to feel mat ease and tries to deflect her problems. She feels like she has changed from one bad habit to another as she is a recovering alcoholic, each little win she gets from gambling makes her feel livelier. Chloe seems to know where her problem is as she has already started speaking about her own solutions to her problems, she believes if she gets a job her gambling habits will become better but she feels like she is in a stuck. She seems to be depressed as she prefers to stay at home and not have to go out, dress up or brush her hair. She says repeatedly that she feels down all the time and blames herself for her failed relationship with her children’s father. Chloe feels like she needs the confidence to go ask for help and does not think she is worthy enough to be helped. As I continue to engage with her and reflect to her what she is saying, I realise that Chloe has the fear of the unknow as she feels like gambling and drinking helps her with her personality. As the session ends there seems to be a bit of hope that Chloe might want to change and come back for further help.

As I watched back the video and reflected on my skills, I had sense of frustration and the urge to tell Chloe that her she clearly knows the solution to her problem and needs to act on it. At the same time I immediately realise that it is easier said than done and perhaps that the reason she has come for a counselling session. I also realised that it is easy to let our judgemental side come out without giving it a thought. The feeling of concern for her children kept on coming up. I felt like she was trying to provide for them but could do better. My feeling was that she should put more focus on them and ease of the gambling.

Here are some of my counselling skills that I observed I made use of and asses the effectiveness of them:

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I made use of my verbal and non-verbal tools. With my nonverbal skills I made constant eye contact and kept my distance neutral not wanting to invade personal space but close enough to hear the client and within eye range of each other not to create a seating of superiority. My verbal communication skills used were “mmm”, “ok” , “I see”. These were used to encourage my client to continue to talk without much interruption and show my interest in what she was saying. Armstrong (2006) explains that the skill to allow the client to talk with minimal interruption is know as attending. Egan (2010) speaks of an effective way for turning into clients SOLAR which is essential at the beginning of a counselling session. SOLAR means

  • S - face the client squarely
  • O – maintain open posture
  • L – lean towards the other
  • E – good eye contact
  • R – relaxed and natural in these behaviours

A counsellor should actively and genuinely pay attention to a client’s problem. I made use of my listening skill by showing head nods. According to Jones the inclination of listening and understanding clients is focused on deciding to recognise the separates between “you” and “me” rather than staying in your outside casing of reference (Jones, 2013). In counselling listening involves being psychologically and physically present (McLeod, 2007), Egan (2010) is of the same opinion and implores a counsellor to listen not just to verbal words but to a clients nonverbal messages and their feelings.

I noticed that while my client was talking, I paraphrased a lot. I felt that it helped but maybe next time not use to much of paraphrasing and use more skills. According to Armstrong (2006), paraphrasing reflects understanding from the counsellor on what the client has said emphasising important points and is shorter that what the client has said. This skill helped me gain some accuracy to my client’s situation and confirming what they have said or meant to have said. In my session I paraphrased what my client said, “You are concerned about your children”. This to get clarity in what she was trying to communicate with me. I have noticed that skill could be used to pace a session, begin and end a session.

I used my question skills not wanting to put pressure on my client or looking like a bully. In such situation Armstrong (2006) offers different techniques on how to apply questioning skills such as, closed question which can be used to get a factual answer or an open question which encourages the client to say more. An open question which I used was “what do you want?” Chloe then began to open more about her past addictions and her feeling as well as how she would want to change. I used a closed question when I asked Chloe “so you would like to stop gambling?” which helped me gain clarity on what she wanted, this closed question can also be used as a reflection on what my client was saying.

According to Mearns & Thorne (2007), empathy is adopting another person’s frame of reference while leaving our own behind, allowing us to experience and explore the other persons world more. Egan (2010) suggests empathy is a skill that needs to be used throughout all stages of counselling. In my session I used an empathetic response with Chloe “I sense you are worried and anxious”. I could sense that my client was showing a calm exterior, but her voice was bringing out her worry.

I tried to challenge my client, but I felt that it was a bit too early to do so in a first session. I felt that goal setting was a bit premature without exploring my client’s situation fully. My client’s response to my challenge was met with a reluctant and less than persuasive response. I immediately felt like I had put my client on the spot and had a fear that they would not want to continue the sessions further. However, I managed to come out the situation by reassuring my client that we would move at a steady pace according to their needs. Egan (2010) explains that challenging is a route to discovering unused resources the client possesses “to help clients do some reality testing and invest in what they learned from this in their futures” (Egan, 2010, pg211).

Aware of my time and not wanting to drag the session on I started to summarise the session and tried to direct the session to an end. Egan (2010) believes that a good way to summaries a session is to provide focus and direction. I believe I probably did not give enough direction to my client at the end of the session, I could have mentioned that we had discussed a lot and there was much more to discuss in the next session. Instead I went on to give them praise for attending the session and hoped to see them again. I believe if I had summarised differently this would have given my client room to return.

This reflect essay on my counselling skill covered a different skills/tools used by me to try and gain some insight and clarity on the issue at hand for both me and my client. These skills proved to be useful and important for me understand my client and communicate effectively as well as define the problem the client presented. These skills not only helped me to communicate professionally, they helped me in gaining an insight of my client’s issues from a number is point of views.

I believe some skills used by me such as goal setting were premature and could have been used in a different session, however I could have used that opportunity to put in some suggestions of improvements. This shows that not all skills have to be used immediately in a session. I also believe that a counselling session is more tailor made to suit the needs of the client. Personally, I feel that for a client to feel comfortable and at ease when talking to you, there should be a sense and an atmosphere of a safe place where everything they say will not be judged.


  1. Armstrong, P. (2006). The practice of counselling. Melbourne: Thomson Higher Education
  2. Egan, G. (2010). The Skilled Helper. 9th Ed. Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning. Belmont, CA
  3. McLeod, J. (2007). Counselling Skills. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press
  4. Mearns, D., & Thorne, B. (2007). Person-centred counselling in action. 3rd Ed. London: Sage Publications
  5. NELSON-JONES, R. Introduction to Counselling Skills: Text and Activities 3rdEd London: Sage Publications Ltd, 2009
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