How Can Paraphrasing Be Used in Counseling? (3+ Main Indications)

In this article, we will be discussing the topic: paraphrasing in counseling, which is one of the main counseling skills of a counselor. We will be looking at nature, importance, and the way of using this skill in the process of counseling. 

Paraphrasing in counseling

Paraphrasing refers to one of the counseling skills which holds paramount importance in the process of counseling. It is that skill which the counselor uses to repeat what the client has said at the present moment using fewer words and without any intention of changing the meaning of what the client conveyed through his words. 

The main intention behind paraphrasing is to feedback on the essence of what the person has just said. Paraphrasing is useful in the following situations:

  • When you want to let the client know that you are actively listening and understanding the information provided by the client
  • When you want to clear and clarify doubts concerning confusing content, given by the client.
  • When you want to highlight issues that need more explanation and precision
  • When you want to evaluate the accuracy of your perceptions as a counselor. 

Though paraphrasing looks quite simple and quick, it demands a sufficient amount of concentration and articulation skills from the side of the counselor. It is more difficult than it appears to be. While paraphrasing the words of the client, they should not end up feeling interrupted or misunderstood, in the process. The paraphrase should be kept, short, precise, and simple. There must be no unwanted complications or assumptions involved in it.

Although, if the paraphrase is kept too short, it would make the client feel confused and sometimes, dejected for being interrupted in between. Hence, paraphrasing must be initiated and put into action in a non-complex and understanding manner. It is very important to practice paraphrases that come in various lengths, variations of content, or emphasis of the wording. This will help you to understand what works best for your intentions and goals, as a counselor.

It is also important to understand that over-reliance on paraphrasing to the point of avoidance of reflection is indicative of discomfort on the part of the counselor, for encouraging the client to be emotionally open and expressive. 

Emphasis on essence

The intention of a counselor, when using paraphrases must be to reveal the essence of the client’s words. The client should get clarity, in terms of the paraphrases you use to communicate with them and must not feel confused or at loss for words once they’ve heard you out. They must be able to smoothly continue with their communication and not be intimidated or taken aback by your choice of words. 

Growth of empathy

Paraphrasing in counseling has a huge impact on the relationship between the therapist and the client. First ad foremost, it aids both the therapist and client to feel heard and understood. This forms the foundation for the client-therapist relationship. The client feels more free and brave to share their innermost and private experiences with the therapist. In turn, the therapist actively listens to the client and provide genuine feedback to the client on the most relevant parts of the client’s information using paraphrasing. 

If paraphrasing is carried out accurately and without the creation of confusion, it helps the client in recognizing the effort of the therapist and the amount of empathy the therapist holds for their state of mind. Hence, paraphrasing, in one way, helps in building the empathetic relationship between the client and the therapist which is important as empathy is not a one-way transaction. 

This is because it is important for the client to feel the empathy that is being conveyed by the counselor. Empathy is not just the counselor being able to put themselves in the client’s state of mind and understand their issues. It also involves the client receiving the empathetic energy that is being conveyed through the words and actions of the counselor.

A form of acknowledgment 

Paraphrasing is a form of acknowledgment that is provided by the counselor. This is done by mindfully restating the words of the client, conveying empathy, acceptance, and genuineness. A therapist’s role does not comprise of reading the minds of the clients or assuming their emotional states. Hence, it is very essential to learn the art of rephrasing the client’s words briefly and acknowledge them with honesty. 

By engaging in paraphrasing, you are letting the client know that you are understanding what they are trying to convey and you are ready to be corrected in case of any misunderstanding.

The important thing to be kept in mind is not to make judgemental statements or use biased terms in the form of paraphrases. This puts off the client and makes him/her trust the therapist less. You must allow the client to come to conclusions on their own and not put words in their mouth. 

Tone of voice

It is a good thing to keep a tab on the tone of voice used with the client while paraphrasing the client’s words. Be mindful of the following:

  • A high or low voice
  • A loud or soft voice
  • Fast or slow voice
  • Accommodating or demanding
  • A lighthearted or gloomy voice

Be aware of the moderations used in voice, pitch, tone, and your body language as well. The client places an immense amount of trust in the therapist and they tend to remember how the therapist made them feel, at the end of the process. Therefore, it is imperative to be careful and gentle while dealing with clients and the information they provide. At the end of the day, the aim of the counselor must be to help the client feel validated and more confident through the usage of paraphrases. 

Alternatives that do not define paraphrasing

  • Paraphrasing is not equivalent to repeating what the client just said. That is called repetition. Paraphrasing involves empathetic understanding and the right choice of words to help the client feel safe and heard.
  • Parroting the words of the client reveals the idea that the therapist is not there with the client mentally and might cause irritation and frustration in the client. Eventually, they might even stop communicating, as a consequence. 


In this article, we discussed the topic: paraphrasing in counseling. We saw the importance of paraphrasing as a counselor’s skill, its emphasis on the essence, how it helps in the theme growth of empathy, and things to be kept in mind while using paraphrases. 

FAQs: paraphrasing in counseling

Why do counselors use paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is one of the most important skills that is required, in the process of counseling. Paraphrasing in counseling is a way of responding, which informs the client that the counselor has precisely heard what the client has conveyed. These kinds of paraphrases, encouragers, and summaries are important and helpful for the client to feel understood in the process of counseling. They make the client feel more comfortable and less vulnerable in the relationship with their therapist. Paraphrasing and summarising are active and efficient ways of communicating to the client that they have been heard. 

What is the difference between paraphrasing and reflecting in counseling?

The difference between paraphrasing and reflecting in counseling is that in paraphrasing you are only summarizing what the client has conveyed. When the client conveys certain information to you, you use paraphrasing skills to reaffirm the meaning of what the client conveyed through his words. On the other hand, the skill of reflection is slightly different. In reflection, you go beyond the process of summarizing what the client said to try to identify the feelings and thought patterns the client may have not identified, but their words and attitudes indicate the presence of such feelings and thought patterns. 

How do you reflect in counseling?

Reflection is an extremely useful and comprehensive skill use by counselors in the process of counseling. It can be compared to holding up a mirror to see the reflection of yourself in it. While reflecting on what the client said, you repeat the client’s words back to them in the exact way they conveyed it to the therapist. In the process, the therapist might choose to reflect on a selected set of words, the whole sentence, or sometimes, just a single word is used for the purpose. This helps the client in gaining insight into his thought process and how it works. It also helps him to connect many events in his life to his way of thinking and feeling and how it affected those events. Clients find the process of reflection a potential tool for growth and meaningful understanding of their obstacles in the process of counseling and how to overcome them. 

How is paraphrasing helpful?

Paraphrasing is important for the mutual understanding of both the client’s and the therapist’s understanding of the client’s situation. It helps the client in revealing the source of his thoughts and emotions in many instances and it acts as a breakthrough for the client in the process of counseling. The therapist also makes good use of the paraphrasing skill to confirm and reaffirm the meaning and tone of emotion used to convey anything that is said by the client, to clear the air of doubts or confusions and make the process of counseling smooth and hassle-free. It provides a good deal of understanding between the client and the therapist.

What are some counseling skills?

The most essential and primary ten skills required in counseling are as follows:

Listening: the counselor must be able to provide their undivided and complete attention to the client, while they are sharing their thoughts, emotions, and their queries.
Empathy: the counselor must be empathetic, genuine, non-biased, and able to sincerely understand the emotional state of their clients. 
Unconditional positive regard: the counselor must be non-judgemental and completely accepting of the client as a person, without any expectation of personal gain or rewards. 
being concrete
Open-ended questioning: open-ended questioning is a form of questioning process which is used to assist the client in clarifying or exploring thoughts.
Self-disclosure of the counselor
Meaningful interpretation and explanation skill
Appropriate and helpful delivery of suggestions, when needed
Consistent removal of obstacles in the way of change.

What is the primary goal of counseling?

The primary goal of counseling is to enable the client to make their own decisions, concerning various aspects of their life, such as career, education, personal growth, relationships, and health. The client should be able to think and act for themselves, without the aid of external influential sources. Counseling will help the clients gain information and also to clarify emotional concerns that may interfere with or be related to the decisions involved. It enhances their problem-solving skills and let them depend less on people’s opinions and judgments.


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