Counselling Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 2 September 2022 | Published 30 June 2021

Updated 2 September 2022

Published 30 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you are a counsellor or pursuing a career as one, there are certain skills that you require to excel in your job. Thankfully, you can develop and improve these skills through practice. Developing counselling skills will help you maintain a relationship with clients while efficiently working through their problems. In this article, we define and give examples of counselling skills, explore ways to improve and implement them and understand how to use these skills during a job search.

What Are Counselling Skills?

Counselling skills are interpersonal and technical traits that a counsellor uses to better understand and listen to their clients. Using these skills, a counsellor helps a client overcome obstacles that are preventing them from leading a happy life. These skills help you build rapport, establish trust and ensure that your clients feel heard and understood.

What Are The Three Core Counselling Skills?

Counsellors need to use a wide variety of skills, but here are the three core skills they must possess:

1. Listening

It is one of the most important skills for a counsellor to have. Listening is not only about aural attention because it encompasses observation of what your client is speaking. The two key components of listening are:

  • Verbal listening: It is the audible demonstration that you are listening to the concerns or problems of your client. Using verbal cues or affirmations like, "I understand**", "Go on", "**I see", "I agree" or repeating important points that your client said is a great way to make the client comfortable and show that you are listening to them.

  • Active listening: Active listening is when you focus completely on what the client is speaking, understand their message, comprehend information and respond thoughtfully.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

2. Self-awareness

Counsellors should know how their body language, gestures and facial expression may affect the client's willingness to share their personal information. Focus on these techniques to ensure you do not accidentally exhibit signs of getting bored or frustrated:

  • Eye contact: Maintaining eye contact with a client showcases that you are listening to them and they have your undivided attention.

  • Gestures and body language: Your body language and gestures talk a lot about whether you want to build a professional relationship with the speaker. Shifting restlessly and sitting with crossed arms can give an impression of disinterest. So, working on your body language and gestures is critical for becoming an effective counsellor.

  • Facial expression: Your facial expressions can help you create a warm, friendly and supportive environment for your client. So, avoid sitting with a frowning face and have a warm smile to build trusting relationships.

3. Communication

Sometimes, it is not what you say but how you say it can affect your client's comfort level. When a counsellor responds to a client's question with clarity in their thoughts, they can better handle the client. So, clearly communicating your ideas to the client is an essential counsellor skill.

Related: How To Improve Communication Skills

What Are Some Skills Required For Counselling?

Some other skills that can help you become a good counsellor are:

4. Questioning

To understand your client, you need to ask relevant questions. A counsellor should utilise both open-ended and closed-ended questions to interpret what a client is saying. Usually, open-ended questions can help you gather complex and detailed information, whereas closed-ended questions help you get specific answers.

5. Observation

Being able to observe the non-verbal behaviour of a client helps you better understand them. For example, on asking questions that a client finds uncomfortable to answer, they are likely to look away, lower their eyes and head. Carefully observing such behaviours can help a counsellor understand the state of mind of a client.

6. Ability to take notes

The ability to take notes in an organised manner can help you record important points during the counselling session. You can always refer to these notes for in-depth analyses of the client's situation or problem.

7. Patience

When working with clients, patience is one of the most desirable skills for counselling. It may take several days or months for results to show up. So, when hiring for a counsellor role, employers prefer candidates who showcase patience.

8. Empathy

Being able to understand the client's problem from their perspective is an essential skill. Empathetic counsellors can quickly help a client overcome their problems.

9. Respect for confidentiality

Respect for confidentiality is an essential trait of an effective counsellor because they should never share their client's personal information with anyone without the client's consent.

10. Interpretation

The ability to make interpretations beyond what the client is saying can help a counsellor understand the problems the client is facing. Also, through interpretation, you can encourage the client to perceive their experience more positively.

11. Trustworthiness

Unless a client trusts a counsellor, they are less likely to share their problems and personal information. So, you should be adept at building and maintaining trust with your clients.

How To Improve Counselling Skills

Here are three ways to improve your skills:

1. Conduct mock counselling sessions

You can improve these skills by conducting a mock counselling session with your friend or family member. Ask them to be your mock client, provide counselling and record the sessions. After the mock session, you can revisit the recording to understand areas of improvement and ask your friend what they liked and disliked about their session. Use this constructive criticism to sharpen your skills.

2. Hire a mentor

You can hire an experienced counsellor as your mentor. Consult with them and learn about counselling methods that can help you understand your clients and efficiently handle their problems.

3. Take part in job shadowing

It is a great way to understand the responsibilities, skills and duties of a counsellor. Choose an experienced counsellor and follow them while they counsel their patients. Through job shadowing, you can understand how these professionals handle an emotional outburst and how they try to solve a client's problem. It also gives you a chance to study and observe the counsellor's body language and facial expressions when they interact with clients.

Counsellor Skills In The Workplace

Here are a few ways you can use your counselling abilities in the workplace:

  • Never share or discuss client information with colleagues. To uphold a client's confidentiality, never share, discuss or disclose any information about them. When discussing a particular case to seek the opinion of your colleagues, try to generalise the case instead of revealing the client's information.

  • Never ask clients for personal information. To build trust and make sure your clients willingly share their problems with you, try to build a conversation around what the client says instead of asking too many irrelevant personal questions. Wait for the client to share information with you.

  • Focus on your facial expression and body language. Always maintain a warm smile and expression to reassure the clients that they have your undivided attention and you are listening to them.

  • Review the client notes. When preparing for an upcoming session, always go through the previous session's notes for a particular client. It helps recall information and helps you continue from where you left in the last counselling session.

How To Highlight Your Counselling Skills

Showing your counsellor skills on your CV and displaying them during an interview can make you stand out from other candidates. Here are a few ways of highlighting your skills:

1. In your CV

Your CV is a great place to mention the counsellor skills you have. You can either list them in the "Skills" section or write it under the "Work Experience" section or mention it in the "Summary" section.

Regardless of where you place it, pick up keywords from the job description to make your CV Applicant Tracking System (ATS) compliant.

Example:

  • Built a trusting relationship with clients while maintaining confidentiality and professional boundaries

  • Observed and assessed client mood, behaviour and other responses to determine the correct solution to their problems

  • Assessed the mental condition of clients through one-to-one conversation with them, observing their behaviour, actively listening to their problems and referring notes from previous sessions

  • Provided a safe place for clients to discuss their problems while respecting their confidentiality.

Related: What is a CV?

2. In the job interview

Your job interview is a great place to showcase your counselling abilities and traits. Start by showcasing your active listening skills by maintaining proper body language, facial expression and eye contact. This can show your interest in what the interviewer is saying. Also, when answering counselling related questions, you can even give examples of how your interpretation skills helped you encourage a client to perceive an unpleasant experience positively.

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