Responding and Reflective Skills
Responding, in a counselling environment, requires that the counsellor’s attention is focused on the client’s feelings and verbal expression at all times. There are many occasions when we respond – perhaps by offering a nod of the head – without really listening to what is being said. In a counselling situation a counsellor must pay close attention and check that a client is not agreeing with a suggestion, without actually fully comprehending what has been voiced.
Positive ResponseResponding in a positive manner requires focus, concentration and an interest in the other person, and what is being expressed. A counsellor must provide this supportive service throughout a client’s counselling experience. Without the use of clear responding and reflecting skills, the level of counselling offered to a client will not be sufficient to motivate and encourage the client to continue with open disclosure.
Types of Positive ResponseBeing encouraging, motivating, reassuring, coaxing, being challenging and praising all provide the client with a positive response to their comments. Asking questions, making statements and suggestions, offering solutions and informing also provide effective methods of good response.
Offering a nod of the head, an um-hmn or by encouraging the client to continue speaking by saying ‘And then?’, provide a further positive response, which will keep the comments flowing.
When and When Not to ReflectAs with any form of communication there is a right time and a wrong time to use reflective counselling skills. Reflecting is another way of responding, which expresses the counsellor’s attitude to the client. It must therefore be a positive response to the client, and must also demonstrate the core conditions of acceptance, value and respect.
- The client expresses a problem, issue or concern.
- The client is unclear about something that has been said.
- The client is upset.
- The client’s behaviour surprises the counsellor in some way.
- When the client, or counsellor, is tired, stressed or anxious.
How to ReflectThere are a number of effective ways of reflecting. Positive reflecting can be done by simply repeating the exact words that have been said. This offers confirmation that the counsellor has understood everything the client has expressed, and now wants to clarify the issues or problems with the client.
Paraphrasing – that is, putting the information into our own words – is also a good way of relaying the fact that what has been said is important, and that the message has been understood. Summarising provides another effective way to reflect, as this reflects back to the client, what the counsellor has heard. When using this form of reflecting it is useful to focus on the content of the comments and the feeling and meaning of this disclosure.
Before expressing an opinion, idea or thought about something the client has said, it is useful for the counsellor to reflect, by summarising or paraphrasing the content of the client’s comments. Reflecting requires the counsellor to remain aware, throughout the counselling session with the client. Perseverance and patience are also important, as is mirroring the tone of the client’s voice, when summarising what they have just said. Combine these skills with active listening skills to become a more 'rounded', adept counsellor.