7 Counselling Communication Techniques

In this blog, we will discuss seven key communication techniques that every counsellor needs to learn if they want to be effective professionals. Readers will first be introduced to how communication is relevant in the counselling process. After that, we will explore these techniques in more detail.

What are Counselling Communication Techniques?

Here is a quick list of important communication techniques that are essential in the counselling process:

  • Active Listening
  • Establishing Rapport
  • Questioning
  • Body Language
  • Developing Insight
  • Co-Regulation
  • Directing the Conversation

Why is Communication so Important in Counselling?

When you take a closer look at what counselling is, you realise that it isn’t simply giving advice to people on how to deal with their issues. Rather, counselling is a highly specialised way of interacting with someone so as to create a safe space to talk and reflect on their personal lives.

The counsellor must build a strong and trusting relationship so that the client feels comfortable enough to discuss their thoughts, feelings, and behaviour with an absolute stranger. Communication plays a pivotal role in this process because, without it, counselling would not be possible.

There is a specific way a counsellor must communicate so that they appear approachable, non-judgemental, objective, empathetic, and professional.

7 Counselling Communication Techniques

Now, we are going to examine what these special communication techniques are and describe all seven of them in more detail.

Active Listening

One of the most basic communication skills is the ability to listen actively. Active listening basically means that you listen to someone with attunement, without interrupting them or getting distracted, and respond in ways that elicit more information from the speaker.

This technique also needs one to listen and observe carefully in order to pick up both verbal and non-verbal cues. Through active listening, you ensure that your understanding of the client and their problems is accurate and free of any assumptions or confusion.

Some of the methods used in active listening are summarising, paraphrasing, leaning in, asking follow-up questions, and appropriate silences.

Establishing Rapport

Counsellors can only help people effectively if they can establish a good rapport. A client will only trust the counsellor enough to reveal personal information if they feel safe and liked. The more transparency between the client and counsellor, the more successful is the treatment.

Hence, it’s very important for counsellors to be liked and trusted. One successful way of achieving that is to treat people with dignity and mutual respect. Moreover, they have to show a genuine interest in the well-being of their clients.

Building rapport is one of the core skills involved in counselling. If the person does not feel like you care about them, they’ll have a tough time opening up to you. Consequently, you won’t be able to handle the situation in an optimal way.

Questioning

Under the heading of active listening, we mentioned asking questions as one of the methods to elicit more information. However, questioning is a huge part of the counselling process. Not only must a counsellor ask the right questions, but also time them well.

There are many different types of questions used in counselling. Some of these are described below.

Follow-Up Questions

These are asked when you want to get more information about the situation the speaker was talking about. Follow-up questions are more focussed on facts and events that have occurred. A few examples of follow-up questions are:

  • What happened after that?
  • What did you do next?
  • Did the thing you were worried about happen?

Open-Ended Questions

Counsellors use open-ended questions to avoid making any assumptions and to focus on the speaker’s unique experience. An open-ended question is one that requires one to answer with at least a few sentences instead of just a yes or no. These generally ask about thoughts and feelings. Here are some examples:

  • How did you feel when that happened?
  • What was going on in your mind in that situation?
  • What do you feel like doing next?

Clarification Questions

These are asked after summarising or paraphrasing to confirm whether your understanding of the speaker’s words is accurate. Such questions are very important as they allow room for error and reflect a genuine interest in what the speaker is saying. Some examples of clarification questions are:

  • Am I getting this right?
  • Did I understand correctly?
  • Is this what you are trying to say?

Body Language

Not all communication will be verbal. There’s a lot more to express and understand from your body language. This includes facial expressions, posture, gestures, and movement.

Someone calm and confident will be still, with an open body, and strong eye contact. However, someone scared or worried about something will have a slouching posture, restless limbs, and a furrowed brow.

Similarly, when one is angry, they have defensive body language, an expression of anger, and visible agitation in their movements. Counsellors must pay attention to the client’s body language and present their own in appropriate ways.

Developing Insight

Remember how we said counselling isn’t just advice-giving? That’s something very important to remember when understanding how counselling works. The nature of communication in counselling is designed in a way to ensure that the client develops insight.

If the counsellor was going around instructing people on how to handle their challenges, then they would be promoting dependency. Moreover, if something went wrong, the client would blame the counsellor’s advice.

Instead, counselling uses communication in a specific way so that the client understands their personality and behaviour. With this understanding, they are better equipped to handle the situation they are in and come up with the right solutions by themselves.

Doing so encourages them to feel good about themselves, not judge their actions, and focus on things in a solution-oriented way. It also allows them to eventually stop needing counselling.

Co-Regulation

A good counsellor will take all the necessary precautions to ensure that during the session, they are mindful of their actions, words, and body language. If the counsellor is disturbed internally, no matter how well they listen, the client too will start feeling disturbed.

Throughout the session, the client’s body will start mirroring whatever the counsellor’s body is doing. If the counsellor is tensed, agitated, tired, or emotional, the client, too, starts feeling it subconsciously.

This is a very implicit process that happens usually without the client’s knowledge. If not taken care of, it can also damage the therapeutic alliance. Co-regulation is the process of maintaining a calm and relaxed body to encourage the client to do the same.

Directing the Conversation

The most important role that the counsellor plays in the interaction with the client is to lead where the conversation goes. If left completely unstructured or up to the client, one might go through an entire session without engaging in any meaningful intervention.

While it’s important to give the client some leeway in deciding what they want to talk about, it’s the counsellor’s responsibility to make sure that the conversation stays relevant and therapeutic.

Counsellors can direct the conversation by asking the right questions which bring the dialogue back to the topics that must be discussed.

Conclusion

In this blog, we discussed seven key communication techniques that every counsellor needs to learn if they want to be effective professionals. Readers were first introduced to how communication is relevant in the counselling process. After that, we explored these techniques in more detail.

The counselling communication techniques mentioned here were Active Listening, Establishing Rapport, Questioning, Body Language, Developing Insight, Co-Regulation, and Directing the Conversation.

FAQs (Counselling Communication Techniques)

What are the 8 types of communication?

The eight types of communication are listed below:

  • Formal Communication
  • Informal Communication
  • Verbal Communication
  • Non-Verbal Communication
  • Upward Communication
  • Horizontal Communication
  • Diagonal Communication
  • Downward Communication

What are some communication activities?

Here is a list of some communication icebreaker activities:

  • Adjective + Name
  • Two Truths & One Lie
  • Introduction Bingo
  • Listen & Draw
  • Telephone
  • The Memory Test
  • Minefield
  • Eye to Eye

What are Counselling skills and techniques?

Counselling skills and techniques are specific ways to counsel someone so that they feel comfortable to open up, do not feel judged, and can arrive at solutions to their problems. They include things like:

  • Listening
  • Attending
  • Building rapport
  • Silence
  • Questioning
  • Paraphrasing and summarising
  • Reflecting

References