Attending skills in counselling (+PDF)

The current blogspot will be based on the question “what are the attending skills in counseling?”. It will enlist the different types of attending skills in counseling, the advantages of attending skills in counseling and explain the different attending skills in counseling with appropriate examples.

What are the attending skills in counseling?

Attending skills in counseling are the various interventions used by counselors to show the client that they are important to the counselor and they are being heard and accepted with all the pleasant and unpleasant aspects of their life and personality.

Attending skills are important because they convey to the client that he has all of the counselor’s attention, undivided and focused. 

The types of attending skills in counseling

Following are the types of  attending skills in counseling:

  • Active listening
  • Responding
  • Rephrasing
  • Reflecting
  • Summarizing
  • Questioning
  • Affirmations
  • Interpretation
  • Clarification
  • Empathy

Active listening

Active listening is related to attending, listening and observing the information being provided by the client. Active listening includes keenly observing the client’s verbal and nonverbal communication inorder to understand the client’s underlying thought patterns and feelings better.

While active listening, the counselor pays attention to the content of the verbatim and the non-verbal processes. Through using nonverbal gestures like maintaining an open posture, maintaining eye content, nodding, reinforcing verbalizations, mirroring the body postures of the client and maintaining silences, the client provides deep listening to the client being counseled.

The counselor in active listening listens to the content of whatever the client is conveying to the counselor. The counselor actively attends to the words the client uses, his expressions related to the words and the underlying pattern of sharing the information. 

In order to gain a deeper insight into the client’s world, the counselor has to attend to the nonverbal communication. These include paying attention to the client’s nonverbal gestures that include:

  • The content of speech, if it is tangential or circular to the content.
  • Monitoring the tone of the client during the sessions and observing the highs and lows .
  • The speed of speech; whether there are long pauses while sharing information, are there any areas that the client stutters while sharing the relevant information about, is there any life phase or event that the client speaks about with pressurized speech.
  • Is there any area of life that the client resists talking about.
  • Noticing the information about the client’s eye contact.
  • Observing the client’s facial expressions to identify his mood and affect.
  • Taking information about the client’s gait while walking into the counseling session and while going out of the counseling room.
  • Observing the client’s body posture during the counseling session, if it is open body posture or close body posture, is the client sitting in a relaxed position or a defensive position in the session.
  • The counselor himself maintains a body posture that includes sitting square with the client, leaning forward on the chair, maintaining eye contact with the client and remaining relaxed on whatever the client shares and however the client behaves in the session without getting panicked upon the client’s manipulation unless there is a threat of danger to life or physical danger that must be dealt with patient and expertise.


Responding To the client during the counseling sessions is another attending skill that is of immense importance. Responding ensures to the client that the client is being heard and paid attention to. 

Responding involves providing active feedback through verbal and nonverbal communication. Providing active feedback through verbal communication involves using words like “mmhmm”, “ahan”, “ok” and “tell me more about it…”.

Whereas providing nonverbal feedback in responding to the client involves head nodding, a pleasant smile, recognising and maintaining silences. 


Rephrasing or restating is an attending skill of the counselor that is based on rephrasing a client’s verbatim or a statement of the client to gain a deeper understanding about the client’s content and the purpose of the content.  

The paraphrasing is based on selection of a part of the client’s verbatim that is linked to client’s thought pattern, and communicating it back to the client with the client’s own keywords in a rephrased form. 

Effective paraphrasing of the client’s content is based on :

  • Listening and recalling the exact message of the client with the clients original words and expressions.
  • Picking up and identifying the selective part of the content and recognizing what event, experience, feeling or person is being talked about by the client.
  • Rephrase to the client what you understood by the client’s verbatim in a short and brief sentence. Rephrasing has to be concise. The counselor has to  use the client’s key words in a different way with the same perspective.
  • Words like “it seems to me…”, “it appears as…”, “it sounds like….”, “what i understand here is….” are used to convey to the client a counselor’s perception of the client’s verbatim.


Reflecting a client’s feelings is another attending skill that is of much importance for the counselor. A counselor involves in affective reflection of the client to draw inferences about the client’s feelings.

Reflecting the emotions and feelings of the clients in a respectful manner involves communicating through verbal and non-vebral communication to the client using words and body gestures.

A counselor, while reflecting and communicating the client’s feelings back to the client, has to be very keen and attentive in his choice of words and body language. A mistakenly used word can be a great threat for the counselors’ rapport with the client.

For example, if a girl communicated that she felt that she is being irritated by her mother because of her love for the oet cat and the counselor reflected that she hates her mother, this would bring a negative consequence to the process of change in the counseling sessions.


Summarizing attentive skills in counseling is related to paraphrasing with longer sentences. A counselor uses summarizing to crystalize the shared information or condense the shared information through the main themes of the counseling session and the talk with the client.

Summaries are statements that are meant to be brief and are based on the verbal content of the clients. While summarizing the counselors tend to pull up the information gathered from the information shared by the client about his thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

A counselor combines a client’s life experiences and draws a general theme out of them through summarisation. For example a client shares that she feels emotionally reactive when anyone talks to her with a loud voice. She previously shared incidents that when her mother  yells at her she feels like throwing away the decoration pieces at home and slamming the door. Further, in another session, the same client shared that as a result of her little brother shouting at her for switching the television channel.

The counselor would draw all of these information sets and summarise “Ms. X there have been a number of incidents in your life that make you feel overwhelmed and emotionally reactive due to loud noises and people yelling at you. Each of these events has served as a triggering event to activate your vicious cycle that makes you feel and behave in unpleasant ways”.


Questioning the client about the information being shared is another attending skill used in counseling. Asking a question at the right time and place during the counseling session often helps the counselor in case formulation.

Questioning in a counseling session can be achieved through open ended questions and closed ended questions.

Open-ended questions help the counselor to gain more information about a relevant area. The open ended questions are used to probe the client about certain areas or life spheres. Open-ended questions also induce a food for thought in the client’s mind.

Examples of open ended questions include :

  • “Tell me more about it?”
  • “Why do you think the situation haooended?”
  • “How do you think your life will change if he leaves you?”

Close ended questions on the other hand are used to collect factual information about the client’s life. Close ended questions yield mere yes/no answers. 

Close ended questions are good to be used with clients who are resistant. They are a good way to initiate conversations with defensive clients.

Examples of open ended question include: 

  • How many siblings do you have?
  • What is your birth order?
  • Which sibling are you close to?
  • Did you like the surprise your siblings arranged for you?


Affirmation is an attending skill in counseling that aims at encouraging and appreciating a client to achieve the goal. It is based on praising the client and reinforcing the client’s little behaviors that take them towards the desired change. 

In other words, affirmations provide the clients with encouragement to  assert behaviors and thoughts that help them move in their desired direction during counseling.

Through the attending skill of affirmation, a counselor motivates a client to go further in life and the client feels a greater sense of achievement.

For example, when a client with depressed features tells the counselor that he has been able to wake up by 10:00 am every morning for the past week and carry out his morning grooming routine, the counselor appreciates the client and encourages him to further take the waking up time to a half hour beyond for the coming week.


The attending skill of interpretation is related to creating a shift in the client’s thought process. It involves interpreting an otherwise negative or unpleasant experience of a client and facilitating them to perceive it in an alternate positive way.

Interpretation allows and facilitates a client to see life with a different frame of reference. It helps them in shifting their frame of reality from negative to positive.

For example, a client who is upset to shift a department of office from one constituent unit to another and feels depressed and low is made to think of the various opportunities of growth that he would have in that building based on his previous experience.


Clarification is a type of attending skills that requires the counselor to ask questions from the client in order to ensure that the counselor is correctly understanding whatever is being communicated by the client.

Clarification of attending skills prevents the counselor from developing any misunderstandings or having any mistaken assumptions about the client.

Clarification also enables the counselor to understand the client’s expectation from the counseling sessions.


The attending skill of empathy in counseling communicates to the client that their experience is felt and their feelings are heard by the counselor in their purest form.

Instead of saying “I know how you feel” a counselor actively listens to whatever is being shared by the client and reflects the same feelings with the same intensity back to the client.

Empathy never suggests being sympathetic about the client’s experiences in life or giving them an impression that they are hopeless and helpless.

For example, when a client shares an incident in life related to childhood abuse, the counselor does not make faces to support what the client felt or the counselor does not start crying with the client. 

Advantages of attending skills in counseling:

Attending skills in counseling have the following advantages:

  • Attending skills help the counselor establish a rapport with the client
  • The counselor is better able to build therapeutic alliance with the client as a result of attending skills
  • The client has an opportunity to trust the counselor knowing that he pays attention to the client as a result of attending skills
  • Attending skills give an opportunity to the counselor to understand his verbal and nonverbal expression related to various life events and mark out any discrepancies. 
  • Attending skills enable a counselor to convey their unconditional positive regard towards their client
  • Attending skills make a counselor capable of drawing inferences and analysing the clients verbatim.
  • Attending skills convey to the client that they are being accepted with all their pleasant and unpleasant thoughts, feelings, behaviors and personality traits.
  • Attending skills convey to the client that they are being heard without being judged for who they are. 
  • Attending skills make a client believe that they are not alone on their journey towards wellness.
  • Through attending skills of the counselor, the client develops a faith that he will be facilitated towards change for overcoming obstacles.
  • Attending skills of a counselor make the client feel heard and listened to beyond the should and musts of the society.
  • Trust forming is the most prominent advantage of attending the skills of a counselor.
  • Attending the skills of a counselor reinforces the client for future sessions and motivates them to change or modify their thought pattern or behavior pattern for a better life experience.


The present blogspot was based on the various attending skills that are used in counseling sessions. We learned that a counselor can better attend to a client using active listening and responding skills along with clarification, affirmations, summarization, clarification and empathy. The blogspot also focused on the advantages of attending skills in counseling sessions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Attending Skills in Counseling

What are the basic attending skills?

The basic attending skills are :

  • Active listening 
  • Active responding
  • Genuineness
  • Empathy
  • Acceptance
  • Rephrasing
  • Paraphrasing

What are the skills used in counseling?

Following are the skills used in counseling:

  • Reflective listening
  • Summarizing
  • Questioning
  • Affirmations
  • Interpretations
  • Paraphrasing

What is the importance of attending skills in counseling sessions?

The attending skills in counseling are:

  • Listening skills
  • Responding skills
  •  Reflecting
  • Clarification
  • Empathy