The concepts and elements of counseling

The concept of counseling refers to the process through which support and guidance are a space where people can discuss their problems and any difficult feelings that they might be facing.

People seek counseling when they are willing to bring in some change in their lives or explore their feelings and thoughts and process them in more depth with their therapist.

This blog runs through the key concepts and elements of counseling.

Stages of counseling:

  • Establishing a therapeutic relationship
  • Assessment
  • Goal setting
  • Intervention
  • Termination and follow up

The skills involved in counseling are:

  • Attending behavior and empathy
  • Questioning skills (open and close-ended)
  • Encouraging, paraphrasing, summarizing
  • Reflection of feeling
  • Focusing
  • Empathic confrontation
  • Reflection of meaning
  • Self-disclosure and feedback
  • Action strategies for change- logical consequences, psycho-education, stress management, therapeutic lifestyle changes, and directives

Establishing a therapeutic relationship forms the core basis in the process of counseling and it includes factors such as rapport building, empathy, trust, confidentiality, and comfort.

The assessment stage begins when the client shares his or her problems and story. The counselor asks questions and validates the client’s feelings to facilitate the process.

Once the client shares his or her story and the counselor explores with regards to the same, the process of goal setting begins.

Goals are set in order to understand the purpose and the need for counseling and this will help make the process effective.

The intervention used during the session depends on the counselor’s approach and the school of counseling he or she follows. This is modified according to clients’ needs.

Once the goals have been achieved the process can be terminated and a follow-up session can be scheduled, a few weeks later to assess how the client is doing/coping up.

Termination can also take place if the process isn’t beneficial to the client and the client can be referred to another counselor.

Elements of counseling

The counseling process involves two members- the counselor/therapist and the client. 

The counselor is professionally trained and certified and facilitates the counseling process along with the client who seeks help from the former.

The relationship established between the client and the counselor is crucial. It must carry a sense of mutual trust and respect.

It enables clients to acquire independence and develop a sense of responsibility. It helps clients explore and bring in a deeper and better understanding of themselves through the process of counseling.

The counselor plays a crucial role in facilitating the process and these include the skills that are used by the counselor at different stages of the counseling process.

The counseling process involves a counselor/therapist and the client. 

The session revolves around the client’s feelings, thoughts and the therapist merely encourages the client to talk about what’s bothering them in order to try and uncover the root causes and identify thought patterns.

There is no given format as to how each session should go. Each session is generally tailored and flexible according to the client’s needs.

The process helps the client see things clearly from a different viewpoint and enables the client to focus on one’s own feelings, experiences, and his/her stand in the situation.

The goal might not always be immediate change as there isn’t always something that can be done but seeing things from a different viewpoint.

It also includes feeling heard and validated and being able to cope with the given situation is something that a counselor can help a client through the process of counseling.

The counselor/therapist should provide advice or look at the client’s issues through his or her own perspective and shouldn’t be biased- based on one’s value system.

The skills involved in counseling are:

  • Attending behavior and empathy
  • Questioning skills (open and close-ended)
  • Encouraging, paraphrasing, summarizing
  • Reflection of feeling
  • Focusing
  • Empathic confrontation
  • Reflection of meaning and interpretation
  • Self-disclosure
  • Action strategies for change- logical consequences, psycho-education, stress management, therapeutic lifestyle changes, and directives

These concepts are essential skills used in counseling and form the basis of the process.

Being empathetic and holding a non-judgmental, unbiased space for the client to share and process how he or she is feeling forms the basis of this process. 

The counselor’s presence and approach of attending to the client while they are talking can make a huge difference in facilitating the session.

By framing and asking questions and putting the question forward to the client can bring the client to awareness and probably he or she might think deeper into the issue or how they are feeling.

Questions in the form of statements and leading questions can be prevented during the session.

Using encouragers can be a way of validating the fact that the client is being heard by the counselor.

By paraphrasing a suitable interval and summarizing at the end of the session the client might get that the counselor is hearing them out.

By using the skill of reflection of feeling, the client might be able to locate exactly how they are feeling.

This can often lead to focusing on feelings, thought processes, behavior, and the situation as a whole.

Empathic confrontation is known as the key stimulus enabling the client to bring about change and development. This skill builds upon the counselor’s ability to listen empathically and observe conflict within the client.

It enables resolving conflict and incongruence and in turn leads to new behaviors, feelings, thoughts, and meanings.

Reflection of meaning and interpretation brings up the meaning below the surface of the client’s conflicts and conversation with regards to the same. 

Interpretation on the other hand encourages clients to find new ways of examining their lives and an in-depth vision of the past, present, and future. 

It provides clients with new perspectives and ideas and in return helps in devising new ways of thinking and feeling and these can lead to new behavioral patterns.

During the later stages of therapy, counselors can make use of the skill of self-disclosure if needed by sharing their own personal observations, experiences, and ideas, if it is in line with the clients sharing and if it would benefit them in the course of the process.

To assess the client’s decisions and behaviors and see the impact they may have, the skill of logical consequences can be used. 

This might help in making those very same decisions with adequate thought and be aware of the complications that might come in the way, once the decision has been made.

Psycho-education is a prominent concept in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and is widely used in recent years. The counselor can provide information or make suggestions or teach them the required skills through psycho-education.

This can include strategies to cope with daily life stressors and also stress upon necessary lifestyle changes. The counseling process is more than just finding an immediate solution to the existing problem at hand. It doesn’t involve advice. 

It rather includes how the process facilitates the client to re-consider thought processes by replacing negative ones with positive ones and this can, in turn, bring about change in one’s point.

This can enable the client to adapt and cope with the immediate difficulties that one might possibly be facing.

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.

Frequently asked questions

What are the basic concepts of counseling?

The basic concepts of counseling include trust, goal-oriented, and issue-centered process. The process includes exploring, discovering, clarifying, and understanding concerns and feelings.

What are the most essential elements in counseling?

The essential elements of counseling include- safety, awareness, and contrary action.

What are the three main types of counseling?

The three main approaches to counseling are- psychodynamic, humanistic, and behavioral.

What are the types of counseling?

The types of counseling are- Marriage and family counseling, career counseling, educational counseling, rehabilitation counseling.

What are the qualities of a good counselor?

The attributes of a good counselor are:

Self awareness
Open mindedness


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Krishnan, S. (n.d.). The counselling Process Page1 COUNSELLING AND CONSULTANCY PSYCHOLOGY The counselling process: Stages of the counselling process Stage 1: Initial Disclosure Stage 2: In-depth Exploration Stage 3: Commitment to action Three stages of Counselling in Perspective.

c) Copyright 2011-2019. (2011). What is Counselling? | SkillsYouNeed.

What is counselling? – Counselling Directory. (2019).

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