List of Basic Attending Skills by Allen Ivey (11+ Effective Tools)

In this article we will look at the book Basic Attending Skills by Allen Ivey. This article also explores why attending skills are important, and what is the purpose of attending skills, especially in counselling.

Basic Attending Skills Ivey

The fundamental and important abilities of interviewing, counselling, and psychotherapy are presented in Basic Attending Skills. The bedrock of good and meaningful interpersonal communication in couples and families seem to be the same listening skills.

They are the glue that holds people together in medical diagnosis and treatment, skillful company management, legal work, and all other professions and environments where people interact.

Surprisingly, these now well-known components of human communication are fundamentally simple and straightforward to grasp. You’ll quickly grasp what they’re all about and how important they are. 

But don’t be fooled; though the test is simple to grasp, the actual challenge is your capability to employ attending skills in the real world in interviewing and counselling on a regular basis.


What You Can Expect To Learn From The Book

  • Basic Attending Skills: An Overview
  • Attending Behavior: The Foundation of Effective Listening
  • Community Genogram: A Strategy for Attending
  • Questions: Open Invitation to Talk
  • Clarifying: The Encourage, Restatement, and Paraphrase
  • Reflection of Feelings: Emotional Regulation
  • Summarization: Integrating Client Behavior, Thoughts, and Feelings
  • Integration of Skills: Structuring an Effective 5-Stage Interview 
  • Teaching Helping Skills to Others 
  • Basic Attending Skills in Brief Summary Statements
  • Attending Behavior 
  • Questions 
  • The Encourage and Restatement
  • The Paraphrase 
  • Reflection of Feeling
  • Summarization
  • The Basic Listening Sequence 
  • The Five-Stage Interview Structure 


Basic Attending Skills is meant to give you a solid foundation in the most vital skills of helping, counselling, and therapy. You can build connection with your clients and effectively hear them if you have good attending and listening skills. Empathy, or the capacity to be sensitive to and make sense of the world of another human being, requires these skills.

Most of us are inclined to give instant advice to people who come to us with a problem. We make helpful suggestions, only to be upset and astonished when our suggestions are dismissed. This book is not anti-advice, but many people may fix their problems and overcome their difficulties if we truly listen to them. It’s likely that no advice is needed!

“Listening lights up the brain.But attending behavior needs to be varied to meet individual and cultural styles.”

Basic Attending Skills

Here is a complete breakdown of the basic attending skills which are essential and invaluable in therapy:

Attending Behaviour

  • Independently and culturally acceptable verbal and nonverbal behaviour in the session is critical to the helping process—culturally acceptable eye contact, vocal tone, body language, and verbal tracking are just a few examples. 
  • This shows that you’re paying attention and helps the client to speak more openly.

Vocal quality

  • The tone and inflections of your voice are termed vocal quality not the substance of what you say . 
  • In certain cases, pacing would be reasonable and efficient; this is referred to as matching the client’s vocal qualities. 
  • You can also guide the client with your vocal abilities.

Body language

  • Leaning subtly toward the client, keeping a comfortable yet attentive stance, mirroring, and other positive body language approaches are common. 
  • Trying to match the client’s facial expressions and bodily posture is known as mirroring.

Visual eye contact

  • Direct eye contact is often perceived as being too aggressive in Asian and Native American societies. 
  • Most clients would be comfy with more eye contact when you’re speaking and less eye contact whenever they’re talking—but this may differ depending on the culture.

Verbal tracking

  • This attending skill requires using words to show the client that you’re paying attention to whatever he or she says. 
  • It entails rephrasing or summarising the client’s expressed thoughts.

Open Questions

  • Short responses, such as head nodding, “uh-huh,” and single words or phrases, are encouraging. 
  • They promote in-depth exploration for clients and provide clarification of context. 
  • Among the most powerful encouragement is appropriate smiling.


  • What, how, or could are common starting words for open questions. 
  • They assist the client in exploring topics and having more in-depth conversations. 
  • Closed questions often start with the words do, is, or are, and lead to targeted, sometimes shorter answers. 
  • While questions can help you learn more about a client’s narrative or problem, be cautious. 
  • If you question the client too much, the client can become

defensive. You don’t want to make it seem like an interrogation.


  • The paraphrase relays the meaning of what has been said by the client. 
  • The paraphrase serves as a check on your listening ability and can allow the client to proceed on to a newer and deeper subject.


  • You choose a few main terms and reiterate them precisely in the restatement. 
  • It functions similarly to an encourager, but it emphasizes in greater detail on a central issue.

Reflecting of Feelings + Responding to Emotions

  • Emotions and thoughts must be drawn out and acknowledged from beneath the client’s worries and issues. 
  • The aim is to recognise and convey the intrinsic emotional experience to the client.
  • Ability to understand a client’s deeper needs and desires requires an exploration of emotion. 
  • Trying to clarify emotion helps clients make better decisions and take action. 
  • Clients sometimes use the terms “confused” or “frustrated” and one of the most main objectives is to explain conflicting emotions.


  • This skill requires you to relay to the client the gist of lengthy statements or an entire session. 
  • Most summarizations should include behaviours, thoughts, and emotional details. 
  • This skill is valuable for elucidating what transpired during the session, as well as at the start and end of the session.

Skill Integration

  • You’ll use only your listening skills to incorporate the skills mentioned above into a well-structured session. 
  • Many clients feel that if you just listen to them entirely, they will address their dilemmas on their own.


“Build resilience by discovering the positive assets, strengths, and resources of each client.”

Basic Maxims of The Helping Process From The Book

Here are four more basic maxims of the helping process:

  • Clients will talk about topics to which you are able and willing to listen.
  • Watch out for prying and don’t be a rescuer.
  • Discover the positive assets of each client.
  • Build resilience.

Other critical maxims for you to consider are:

  • Focus on the positive—search for strengths in the client and external support in family and friends.
  • Use those strengths and supports—They are the building blocks for client resilience and the future.

Another important maxim:

  • As a counselor, you can be most helpful if you are truly yourself. Seek to define your own style of interviewing, but always with awareness that varying clients may respond to different styles than those with which you are most comfortable.

Another maxim:

  • Honoring and respecting your client may mean temporarily giving up your natural style and joining the client’s world.

From Basic Attending Skills

Honoring Multicultural Difference

Multicultural heritage is a significant component of each person’s unique identity. Multiculture is defined generally to include at least the following dimensions:

  • Race/ethnicity
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Sexual identity
  • Family history
  • Physical ability/disability
  • Language
  • Religious/spiritual orientation
  • Traumatic life experiences

Consider the following as a beginning toward a lifetime of learning:

  • Listen. Ultimately, your ability to hear client stories and understand their world will be basic, regardless of multicultural background.
  • Be willing to share yourself openly. At times you need more than listening to build a trusting relationship. Many have found that direct and open acknowledgement of cultural difference can facilitate trust.
  • Avoid stereotyping. You will find that there is extensive variation in any multicultural group. Individual White Americans and Canadians are not the same, just as all Asian-American or Asian-Canadians differ from each other. The interview and counseling are for the individual client, not for an imagined group.
  • Read, learn, participate. Multicultural understanding can only really develop if you commit yourself to studying and participating in the life of different cultural groups. This could include attending multicultural community events, a visit to a conservative or liberal church, or visiting an open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

From Basic Attending Skills


In this article we looked at the book Basic Attending Skills by Allen Ivey. This article also explored why attending skills are important, and what is the purpose of attending skills, especially in counselling.

Frequently Asked Questions: Basic Attending Skills Ivey (PDF)

What is the purpose of attending Behaviour in Counselling?

Attending behaviour is a counselling microskill that encourages clients to speak by indicating that the counsellor is paying attention to what they’re saying. When does it come into play? During the whole therapy session. This is particularly true in the early stages of developing rapport.

What is the importance of basic attending skills during the session?

Simple attending skills are critical throughout the session in order to obtain a better understanding of the client’s internal experience of the crisis. The client’s thoughts and emotions about his situation should be the focal point.

How do you show attending skills?

Here is a list of tips to help in showing attending skills:

Make a point of addressing the speaker by name.
Use motivating phrases like “Uh huh,” “Go ahead,” and “I’m listening.”
Slightly lean toward the speaker.
Maintain eye contact that is acceptable.
Show curiosity and concern in your facial expressions.
To express agreement, nod your head.
Avoid distractions as much as possible.

What is attending behavior in counseling?

Any action taken by a person while carefully listening to and watching a speaker, such as making eye contact and adopting an open, engaged posture. Active listening and supportive attending behaviours are deemed to be the main pillars of a therapist’s or counselor’s overall capacity.

What is the difference between directive and nondirective counseling?

When the therapist directs the therapeutic process, it is known as directive therapy. When you provide cognitive behavioural therapy, for instance, you are providing the client guidance for dealing with the problem as well as assisting them in practising particular strategies. On the other hand, the client takes the lead in non-directive counselling.

What are the four components of attending behavior?

Attending behavior has four dimensions

3 Non-verbal 
Visual eye contact
Body language.

1 Verbal
Verbal Tracking


Basic Attending Skills

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