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Responding and Reflective Skills

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 30 Jul 2021 | comments*Discuss
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 Response

Responding 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 Response

Being 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 Reflect

As 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.

Right Time

  • 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.

Wrong Time

  • When the client, or counsellor, is tired, stressed or anxious.

How to Reflect

There 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.

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Hai am a student social worker in my forth year at unisa ,i would like to know of asking your help .Am dealing with a family were by the mother left four children in the care of their grandfather and the girl child is there she feel lonely and only 9 her brother tease her saying she want to be like her mother ,they are hurt too for her not being there,but they is a kind of discripacy i feel how should i express this.
Rendy - 15-Aug-17 @ 2:31 PM
Hi. I would like to express my interest in your view on, " reflecting exact words back to the client". As I am a student at the moment studying counselling, through my teachings, You are the first to state to reflect exact words back to the client. I would appreciate further evidence to your belief on this matter,as I believe, a 'new' counsellor would benefit from using/believing in this approach(and the client) until experience & confidence has been reached. I would like with your permission, to use further evidence in my study to prove your theory would be of beneficial & verify my statement of use. Hope to hear from you. Kind regards Charmaine Carrero-Smit, Student of Counselling. Australia, W.A.
Chamy - 10-Sep-16 @ 7:54 AM
You have to give the client permission to open up, and small, positive steps do encourage them, whether verbal or non-verbal. Generally, reflection is only useful if the client asks a question or is a little confused on a point and trying to work it out. After all, it’s the client who’s the focus of the session.
thinker - 18-Sep-12 @ 3:14 PM
On my course we were told to refrain from verbally encoraging the client constantly and to nod and use expresssion rather than keep syaing 'what happened next' 'then what'. We were told to give the client space to talk and then let them reflect on what they've said before asking them any further questions. I did find it hard at first not to jump in and ask questions but after a while it was quite easy to just let the clinet talk and then wait for them to ask for your opinion. Your aim as a counsellor is to help the clinet come to their own conclusion about their problems not just to tell them what they should do, you're there just to help them figure it out for themselves.
counsellor in traini - 18-May-12 @ 5:14 PM
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