Applied Psychology

How to Augment Your Natural Counselling Skills

Sep 20, 2023 | By Saranne Durham

Some people are natural counsellors. People gravitate towards them and share details of their lives, looking to unpack and understand a challenge they are having. These are the people who seem to have been born with counselling skills and enjoy helping others. By taking the time to improve your knowledge and practical skills, you can help others more effectively than before. As well as create better connections while you help them. 

What are Counselling Skills?

To be able to counsel someone effectively there are a few skills which you need. For example, reflective listening, paraphrasing, summarising and a non-judgmental approach. As well as knowing how to ask different types of questions. Observation and being empathic while maintaining an ethical stance are also part of a good counselling toolkit. 

5 Skills that Counsellors Need

These are five of the many skill areas that are needed in order to productively assist someone through a challenge. Developing oneself in these areas, can greatly augment existing skills. This will better enable you to assist those around you when they come to you with a challenge. 

1. Applying an ethical approach

When it comes to counselling someone, even informally, there are ethical parameters that should be kept in mind. These are confidentiality, preventing harm or exploitation, informed consent, and being competent in your approach. 

2. Using Active Listening Skills

A key way of approaching a counselling situation is to engage in reflective listening. This means careful and focused listening, followed up with paraphrasing what you’ve heard and then asking follow-up questions. This allows you to be certain that you have understood the person correctly. It also reassures them that you’re truly listening to them. Both of these are important if you want to build genuine rapport and trust with someone. By doing this you also show empathy towards them. This is an important trait to nurture if you want to be a helpful sounding board or provide relevant guidance. 

While talking to someone it’s important to maintain eye contact and be aware of the tone of your voice. Often someone you talking to will take their lead from what you not saying. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of your non-verbal communication. For example, facial expressions, body positioning and when you make time to talk as well as the setting for a discussion. Being aware of the other person’s body language is also important. Especially when you’re considering what questions to ask. Observing someone else’s non-verbal communication enables you to better understand the underlying feelings within a situation. 

3. Asking Questions

The type of questions that you ask will determine what information is forthcoming. As well as the value and relevance of it. Open-ended questions encourage someone to talk freely and share things directly from their own perceptions. For example, how did you feel about that? In contrast, closed questions are great for creating focus. However, their downside is that they can also cause someone to shut down. This can be a problem as it’ll decrease the amount of information you have to work with. A closed question, for example, would be, do you think that was a good idea? Thus, closed questions include those that are likely to have a one-word answer. 

4. Reflecting Feelings

Many people find it difficult to identify their underlying feelings concerning the situation at hand. And often the most visible feelings aren’t those that underpin the situation. For example, someone who presents as very angry may actually be lonely, hurting or scared.  

Therefore, after observing their body-language and asking follow-up questions to what they’ve shared it’s then good to reflect. Specifically, to look at what they’ve said from a holistic perspective rather than taking a reductive approach. What can be tricky here is that the person you speaking to may be unaware of their true feelings underpinning what they have shared. Or alternatively, they might be unable to articulate what they are feeling. This is where upskilling yourself is particularly valuable. Knowing how better to identify problems and explore a situation will create a counselling-type of interaction that is more helpful. 

5. Setting Goals

For counselling-type interactions to be helpful, they should also include goal setting. As well as evaluating possible strategies to achieve them. Research has shown that setting goals positively impacts someone’s life. This is because goals provide both focus and direction for both parties. They also help someone to develop better insight into their situation. And thereby what they want to achieve by unpacking a situation or within the greater scope of their lives. Essentially, setting goals is often a critical step towards achieving a desired outcome. 

Where Counselling Skills can be Used

There are a number of everyday settings in which deepening your counselling skills will be to your advantage. For example, within your family, your circle of friends and at work. Therefore, finding ways to improve them is a great investment. 

How to Improve Counselling Skills

These are 3 ways you can improve your skill set: 

  1. Do a Short Course through a reputable organisation. 
  2. Practice analysing body language by observing those around you and when you interact with someone else. 
  3. Have a mock-counselling session with a friend. Record yourself and then review it afterwards. Also ask for honest feedback from your friend. 

The SACAP Global micro-credential courses are an ideal way to augment your counselling skills. The Fundamental Counselling Skills course runs for six weeks and the Deepening Your Counselling Skills runs for eight weeks. Both courses have been reviewed to ensure quality academic learning within the Malaysian and Australian credentialing framework. They can be completed as stand-alone courses or stacked and completed as sets. These sets of specific courses are recognised as equivalent to a module within the Bachelor of Applied Social Science Degree offered at SACAP. 

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