Cheat Sheet

Counselling Skills For Dummies

Whilst working to improve your counseling skills as a professional in the UK, having some key information at hand can be invaluable. Print out and pin up these useful reminders and guidelines to assist you in the planning and carrying out of your sessions.

The Three-Stage Framework of a Helping Encounter

Use the three-stage model to manage each helping encounter in a counseling session. Be clear about the time you have available and that you structure the time into three sections:

  • Stage 1: Exploration. This stage takes at least a quarter of the time in single or early sessions of a series because it includes getting-to-know-you time, and time to establish trust. Exploration may take less time later in the helping relationship.

  • Stage 2: Understanding. This usually takes half of the time of the encounter.

  • Stage 3: Action. Around a quarter of the time is given over to deciding what action to take after the session.

Using a Holistic Approach to Counselling

Each person is an individual with different experiences helping form who and where he or she is today. The BEST-I BEST-R model will remind you of this:

  • Body

  • Emotion

  • Sensation

  • Thinking

  • Imagery

  • Behaviour

  • Environment

  • Spirit

  • Time

  • Relationships

Knowing Your Responsibilities as a Listening Helper

As a listening helper in a counseling session, you need to be very clear about your role. The three pointers below can help you avoid getting over-involved and overwhelmed:

  • If you’re in an organisation make sure you know what your company expects of you in your listening-helper role, what the limits are, and what supports are available.

  • Be clear with yourself about what you can manage in terms of your time, offering support, taking action, and containing emotion, and remember the help-seeker’s own responsibility for him- or herself.

  • In the helping relationship, be clear with the help-seeker about what you can offer and its limits.

Taking Care of Yourself as a Counsellor

When faced with a tricky situation whilst using your counselling skills, refer to the helpful tips below. It is very important to remember to take:

  • A deep breath.

  • Your time. Pauses and silences are always shorter than you think.

  • A different tack from questions. Questions give you the agenda and responsibility – try giving the agenda and responsibility back to the help-seeker.

  • Note of emotion words and reflect them back with more weight.

  • Note of feelings, thinking, and behaviour and summarise them.

  • Courage to be honest (as long as it’s in the help-seeker’s best interest). Admit you don’t know what to do, don’t know what to say, feel muddled, and so on.

  • Summaries seriously. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of summarising.

  • Time to consult others and to reflect on the situation.

Remembering That We Are Responsible for Our Feelings

We are each responsible for our own feelings. People react in different ways to the same events, so our reactions are not inevitable – they are the result of our history and tendencies. Other people do not make us feel particular emotions (although they may intend or try to).

Think of a recent emotional reaction that you didn’t like and reflect on it:

  • If you had a different reaction what kind of person would you be?

  • If you had a different reaction (think of one or two) how would the other person react to you and then what would happen?

  • Trace your original emotional reaction back to the earliest experience of it that you can remember and write about that event and ask yourself the previous two questions again.

Managing Endings during Counselling Conversations

Many listening helpers struggle to end helping conversations. Try some of the following tactics to ensure that you begin and end you session in a timely manner:

  • Make sure you mention the time you have available at the beginning of the conversation or as soon as you can during it.

  • Keep a clock in view.

  • At least five minutes before the time runs out, mention that the session is coming to an end.

  • Stop asking any open questions that invite elaboration.

  • Don’t open up any ‘big’ issues. If the help-seeker seems to be launching on a big issue anyway, be firm and say, ‘I’m sorry we’re out of time because that sounds important. Perhaps we can pick up on that when we next meet, when we have time to do it justice.’ Bear in mind that the speaker may have raised the big issue at the last minute so that it can’t be discussed – the speaker may want to broach the subject and gauge your reaction.

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