3 Benefits of Open-ended Questions in Counselling

In this article, we will look at the benefits of open-ended questions in counselling and therapy. This article also explores the various types of open-ended questions and tips to form effective open-ended questions.

Benefits of Open-ended Questions in Counselling

The majority of therapists have been taught to ask open-ended questions. Instead of being responded to with a “yes” or “no,” open-ended questions enable you to offer as much or as little detail as you choose. Open-ended questions enable you to disclose important information about your life, your values, and your mindset.

If you’ve ever gone to therapy, you’ve most likely noticed that your therapist asks a multitude of open-ended questions. In fact, in pop culture, it has become a source of amusement. “How did that make you feel?” has become a typical method to spoof therapy, thanks to Bob Newhart’s popular question.

However, open-ended questions are not only beneficial in therapy; they are also a wonderful approach to start everyday conversations. Realize the importance of apparently vague questions.

Open-ended vs. Closed-ended Questions

The majority of therapists have been taught to ask open-ended questions. Instead of being responded to with a “yes” or “no,” open-ended questions enable you to offer as much or as little detail as you choose. Open-ended questions enable you to disclose important information about your life, your values, and your mindset.

Consider the questions below:

Do you and your parents have a good relationship?

What is your relationship like with your parents?

The content will be the same, but the responses will most likely be vastly different. The first question has a one-word answer. “Yes” or “no” is the anticipated response and that makes it a closed-ended question. 

If a therapist asks the question and receives one of those responses, the onus is on the therapist to promote a more comprehensive response. A client might prefer to speak more in response to a closed-ended question, but they seldom do.

There is one more distinction between these two questions. The first is a leading question. It instils the concept of “goodness” in the client’s mind. When you consider a question like, “Did your father sexually assault you?” The former isn’t a particularly worrisome example of a leading question. Therapists avoid asking questions like this because they may elicit a certain response.

Open-ended Question Tip

Sometimes your open-ended question ends up ultimately as a closed-ended qustion, this is a potential pitfall to look out for when crafting open-ended questions. Oftentimes you create a complex question that appears to be open-ended, but in reality, it can only elicit a yes-or-no response.

Open-ended Question Types

The standard “who, what, where, when, why, and how” employed in excellent journalism is pronounced in open-ended questions. 

Open-ended questions elicit a multitude of replies and reactions that might be valuable to a therapist.

“How” questions tend to elicit emotional responses from the client. More often than not, “what” questions lead to the discovery of facts. When you ask a question starting with “When,” you’ll get information on the problem’s timing, which might include events and things that happened before or after the occurrence.

“Where” questions disclose the setting, scenario, or location in which the incident occurred, while “Why” questions typically provide the therapist with knowledge about the event’s causes and events leading up to it.

  • Who: Provides insight on interpersonal relationships.
  • What: Usually leads to facts.
  • Where: Allows for exploration of the place where the event occurred.
  • When: Indicates when a situation arose, as well as what occurred shortly before and after it.
  • Why: Reasons and causes are frequently brought up in response to this.
  • How: Allows a client to express their emotions and/or processes.

Whenever asking any question, especially “why” ones, an appropriate tone of voice is vital. Beginning a question with “why” might come to be seen as judgmental, prompting a defensive response. This reaction can be avoided by speaking in a nonjudgmental tone which is also reassuring.

Effective Open-ended Questions

Open-ended questions that elicit responses need careful framing and construction. These questions are designed to inspire clients to communicate their ideas, feelings, experiences, doubts, and motivational factors with the counsellor, who will then be better able to assist them in changing their behaviour. It is possible to develop the ability to ask effective open-ended questions.

Clients’ ideas and experiences are targeted with effective questions that ask them to explain their living conditions, consider their decisions, express their perspectives, and examine their concerns and motives. Here are a few suggestions for making open-ended questiong more effective:

  • Open-ended questions are more specific than closed-ended questions. General questions are frequently too complex to respond to and do not yield the desired outcome.
  • Ask open-ended questions one by one. The client becomes confused when you ask numerous questions in a succession. When confronted with a series of questions that need various responses the befuddled client is likely to respond to either one question or none at all.
  • An open ended question’s effectiveness varies depending on the context. The openness of the client to provide information determines the effectiveness of an open-ended question. 
  • If the subject is uninteresting to the client, they may not offer the detailed response that is required. In these cases, a competent interviewer would look into what relevant topics the client is interested in and integrate them into the conversation.

Open-ended Questions In Daily Life

Open-ended questions are beneficial to more than just therapists. Open-ended questions may be used by anybody in their everyday life. When you ask open-ended questions rather than closed-ended ones, you’re far more likely to start a discussion and engage with others.

Ask open-ended questions if you’re speaking with somebody you don’t know closely. In addition, if you have a yes-or-no question in mind, check if you can rephrase it into a more open-ended question and ask it then. The discussion will most likely flow more smoothly, and you will learn more about that person.

BetterHelp: A Better Alternative

Those who are seeking therapy online may also be interested in BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers plenty of formats of therapy, ranging from live chats, live audio sessions and live video sessions. In addition, unlimited messaging through texting, audio messages and even video messages are available here.

BetterHelp also offers couples therapy and therapy for teenagers in its platform. Furthermore, group sessions can also be found in this platform, covering more than twenty different topics related to mental health and mental illness. The pricing of BetterHelp is also pretty cost-effective, especially considering the fact that the platform offers financial aid to most users.


In this article, we looked at the benefits of open-ended questions in counselling and therapy. This article also explored the various types of open-ended questions and tips to form effective open-ended questions.

Frequently Asked Questions: Benefits of Open-ended Questions in Counselling

Why use open ended questions in therapy?

The client is asked open-ended questions so that he or she may freely address concerns without being influenced by the helper. The client will share their thoughts and feelings with the helper so that they may receive knowledge, tools, and guidance on the proper track.

Why are open ended questions important in Counselling?

During the counselling session, asking questions might serve to bring up new topics for conversation.Open questions are ones that can’t be answered in a few words; they motivate the client to open up and provide the therapist a chance to learn more about them and their issues.

What are the benefits of open ended questions?

Advantages of Open-Ended Questions

Allow for an infinite number of answers.
Bring innovative, often unexpected ideas.
Give additional information.
Provide more in-depth, qualitative information.
Give you thoughts and feelings.
Follow the client’s journey from beginning to the end.

Why is it important to ask open questions?

Open-ended questions allow us to elicit qualitative responses from clients who, for the most part, are overflowing with information. By asking an open-ended question, you give your clients the freedom to respond however they want without being limited or influenced by structured questions.

When should open ended questions be used?

Shorter, more in-depth surveys benefit from open-ended survey questions. Whenever you only want to ask a few specific questions and the responses are very personal and emotional, use open-ended questions.

What is a disadvantage of open ended questions?

Disadvantages of Open-Ended Questions

The response rate is low.
Data is difficult to evaluate and comprehend.
This is not a suitable method for obtaining quantitative data.
Can generate a lot of useless information.

Why are closed questions bad?

Closed questions are typically shorter and more concentrated, making them easier to respond because the response options are limited, usually ‘yes’ or ‘no’. However, by imposing a binary decision, closed questions risk hiding the genuine picture.

Why should loaded questions be avoided?

Avoid loaded questions

Loaded questions are those that are worded in such a way that the responder is forced to give an answer that does not accurately represent his or her perspective or circumstance. Evaluating your survey to ensure that every responder has a method to respond truthfully is usually the best method to eliminate loaded questions.

What is the best use for closed ended questions?

For research, closed-ended questions are preferable. Close ended questions are good for a researcher searching for a faster and more efficient approach for respondents to participate. It’s easy to compare, record, and statistically analyse responses from different respondents.

What is a powerful question?

“Powerful questions are the result of attentive listening and a thorough grasp of the other person’s point of view, which is reinforced by paraphrasing. • Open-ended questions with no underlying intent are powerful questions.

How do open questions help in conversation?

An open question is one that doesn’t ask for one-word answers and instead enables the individual to steer the discussion, making them feel safer and more equipped to express themselves. When opposed to asking simply yes/no response questions, these insight questions encourage a more open discussion.

Are qualitative questions open-ended?

In qualitative research methodologies and exploratory investigations, open-ended questions are frequently employed. This frequently offers researchers with a wealth of useful data for their investigations. Open-ended questions allow participants to openly express their personal experiences, which is particularly useful when the topic is sensitive or involves personal problems.


Why Do Therapists Ask Open-Ended Questions?

Interviewing Clients and Patients: Improving The Skill of Asking Open-Ended Questions

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