Applied Psychology

Why Everyone Needs Counselling Skills

Jan 22, 2024 | By Jenna Van Schoor

Counselling skills are not only for counsellors. Of course, to be a counsellor, you need to have extensive training. However, it can be valuable to learn a sound set of relational and helping skills that can be applied in everyday environments, such as the workplace. 

In this article, we’ll talk about these helping skills, why they are valuable and give an example of how they can benefit your work and personal life.

What are counselling skills?

In a previous post called “Qualities You Need for a Counselling Career”, we outlined some of the attributes you need to pursue a career in counselling. These include an interest in people’s wellbeing, empathy, communication skills, ability to manage stress and an appreciation for cultural diversity.

While reading through these attributes, you might think, “These apply in every area of life!”. And you’re right, they do. While not everyone needs to pursue a counselling career, we can build on these valuable attributes and apply them daily.

Whether we use these skills in our family, a team, or even for our own benefit, they can help us better manage our relationships. To give an overview of precisely what counselling skills are, here is a summary:

  • Attending skills: observation of verbal and non-verbal behaviour and responding with appropriate non-verbal behaviour.
  • Active listening
  • Contracting, paraphrasing, summarising, identifying and reflecting feelings
  • Asking questions.
  • The skill of challenging: gently confronting and challenging the client to help them explore their conflict more deeply.
  • Use of immediacy and self-disclosure: bringing in what is happening in the moment and your frame of reference to help build a helping relationship.
  • Empathy
  • Goal-setting
  • Action planning

Why are counselling skills valuable?

Looking at the list above, you might wonder how to apply these skills. To explain, we’ll share an example of how these can help to deal with common workplace challenges. We’ll focus on remote work and the conflict and disconnection within a team that doesn’t regularly  meet face-to-face.

Remote working challenges

Remote working is a boon for many, giving us flexibility and independence and cutting time spent in traffic or on a commute. However, remote work has many challenges, including disconnection, micromanagement and difficulty working together.

To show helping skills in action, we’ll use them in a scenario: a remote team struggles to meet deadlines. There is a disconnection because some team members believe they are working harder than others, and others aren’t pulling their weight. It’s the end of the year, and the team manager is stressed because many deadlines are looming, and the company will be closing for the holidays soon.

If we apply counselling skills to this scenario, we can develop some ideas for resolving this situation.

Attending and listening skills

By using attending and active listening skills, a team manager or member can take the time to listen to each team member’s point of view. By contracting, paraphrasing, summarising, identifying and reflecting feelings, they can help everyone gain perspective on their current situation and feel heard.

Asking questions

Team members can shift their perspectives and better understand actions and feelings by asking questions and using the skill of challenging. For example, people might struggle with other team members who “aren’t pulling their weight”. However, perhaps they don’t know that someone in the team is struggling with their mental health or their relationships or that they need more support to complete tasks – asking questions can create clarity and reveal what lies beneath the surface.

Immediacy and self-disclosure

If a manager or team members use immediacy and self-disclosure, the affected party may feel more comfortable sharing what is happening behind the scenes. Those who believe they are doing more work than others might for example need to acknowledge that they aren’t as supportive as they should be or that struggling team members might need to acknowledge they need additional training or guidance.

Sharing feedback about what is happening in real time and/or examples of similar experiences can help identify impediments and create a better understanding. For example, communicating solely via email or text can be disastrous regarding detailed communication around tasks and their effective completion. Face-to-face communication and phone calls still have their place in a digital world.


Through this empathetic approach, and with insights from each team member, the team could brainstorm to find solutions to current challenges. For example, the team could set goals that prioritise critical work instead of trying to complete every task before year-end. Taking action could also include regular check-ins with team members and in-person meetings to help build face-to-face rapport. 

By sharing this brief example, it’s clear how these helping skills can be useful beyond a counselling conversation. They can be applied to many situations, including your personal life.

Learn practical helping skills at SACAP Global

To become a registered counsellor, you need to complete the appropriate qualification(s). However, you can register for the Fundamental Counselling Skills micro-credential to enhance your natural abilities and apply these concepts in your own life.

In this short online course, you’ll learn all about the necessary skills a counsellor needs and how to build effective helping relationships using the Relational Skills Model. You’ll also learn more about how to discuss problems and feelings in a safe and confidential environment. 

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