Step One - Learning the Basic Skills of Counseling Techniques

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Learning some basic skills of counseling techniques (link to Basic Counseling Techniques: A Beginning Therapist's Tool Kit by Wayne Perry) is the first step on our journey. These basic skills include the patterns of sessions, active listening, body language, tone, open ended and closed questions, paraphrasing, summarizing, note taking, homework, the 'goodie bag' and other fun and informative stuff!

You will also have an opportunity to "listen in" on a number of sample sessions to see how all of these counseling skills work together.

Note: I use the words "counselor" and "listener" interchangeably; also "client" and "speaker."

What follows are some simple descriptions. For more information and practice ideas, click on the appropriate buttons on the left hand site.

The pictures on the right hand side of this section's pages serve as topic illustrations.

The large pics at the bottom will always have a cat. Why? Because Sigmund Freud - physiologist, medical doctor, psychologist and father of psychoanalysis, and who is generally recognised as one of the most influential and authoritative thinkers of the twentieth century - loved cats!

Introduction to Terms

The pattern of sessions has a predictable rhythm with an introduction, information gathering, discussion and a conclusion.

Active listening happens when you "listen for meaning". The listener says very little but conveys much interest. The listener only speaks to find out if a statement (or two or twenty) has been correctly heard and understood.

Body language takes into account our facial expressions, angle of our body, proximity of ourself to another, placement of arms and legs, and so much more. Notice how much can be expressed by raising and lowering your eyebrows!

You need to monitor the tone of your voice - in the same way that you monitor your body language. Remember, the person may not remember what was said, but they will remember how you made them feel!

An open question is one that is used in order to gathering lots of information – you ask it with the intent of getting a long answer.

A closed question is one used to gather specific information - it can normally be answered with either a single word or a short phrase. Good counseling techniques to know!

Paraphrasing is when you restate what the speaker said. Often different words are used and the listener may be using this to draw attention to a particular concern or aspect. Sometimes paraphrasing is used to clarify.

Summarizing is focusing on the main points of a presentation or conversation in order to highlight them. At the same time you are giving the “gist”, you are checking to see if you are accurate.

Notetaking is the practice of writing down pieces of information, often in an shorthand and messy manner. The listener needs to be discreet and not disturb the flow of thought, speech or body language of the speaker.

Homework? Absolutely! When the person identifies a need or concern, she or he must be willing to work hard at addressing it. This is much like what you are doing right now. You want to learn counseling techniques, so you are going to study and practice these basic skills!

The Goodie Bag and Other Fun and Informative Stuff help make a counseling session an occasion for joy, as well as for additional learning.

Putting It All Together

Once you have reviewed Counseling Techniques I encourage you to "listen in" on Sample Sessions One and Four - to see how these could be used in an initial and subsequent visit.

One - Client Centered (Carl Rogers)

Four - Strength Based (Positive Thinking / Learned Optimism)

After reviewing Counseling Techniques and Sample Sessions One and Four, it will be time to study common Counseling Theories.

It will truly be very interesting!

Time spent with cats is never wasted. - Sigmund Freud

Sassy Lara
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