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Counselling Skills: Empathy Review

What I Expect When Meeting the Client for the First Time

When meeting a new client for the first time, I expect to develop rapport with the client whilst building a relationship as well as situational concepts that assist the client to trust the counselor. The reason behind starting the session would develop agreement and trust which will then help the sessions as the client goes through some stages. I expect that I will have to use skills that are frequently used such as attending behavior, observation, information, and instruction skills; such examples would involve maintaining eye contact and vocal tone with clients to provide them with a sense of comfort.

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I will not use certain language with the clients could pose a weakness within the sessions. Due to language discrepancies, some clients may not feel comfortable with a certain form of language a counselor may be accustom to this being a part of the cultural differences.

By this, the relationship of the client and counselor will become strong and thus I will avoid aimless topic jumps and gives purpose and direction. A vital area of the therapy is conducting a positive asset search within the client and then identifying strengths that the client withholds to bring out positive interaction during the sessions.

I will also strengthen the relationship by first allowing the client to tell his story in his own words as it is crucial that I hear or elicit the client’s understanding of why is there and why she thinks there is a problem. Then I will let the client know I understand what she believes. This will involve listening carefully and acknowledging it by saying something simple (Lukas 1993:2).

The skills I will commonly use at the time of strengthening a relationship consists of attending skills, use of the basic listening sequence, and conducting a positive asset search.

I expect that this relationship will be based on mutual trust, respect, and belief that the client can change. Apart from this I will make realize the client realize that I am an interested listener as the client’s realization that you are making an effort to understand him or she is the essential first step in engaging any client in treatment (Lukas 1993:3).

I as the therapist expect to work on getting into the client’s world and when learning about this world, the therapist does not disagree nor do they point out contradictions. The focus is on the immediate conscious experience, there is no attempt to probe into the client’s unconscious mind. I will not act as an omniscient authority who sagely interprets what the client says or dreams, or telling the individual what to do for his or her good. Instead the I expect that I will concentrate on the whole individual as he or she experiences the world in the present day and works toward helping the client help him or herself.

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My most powerful motivation for helping others by becoming a professional counselor is that I can learn something new every day. I will get to meet a lot of different kinds of people, and getting them out of the bad state they are in is my greatest motivation for becoming a professional counselor.

Impact of Using Empathy

Empathy is a personality trait or disposition to feel what other people feel or understand others from the inside. In therapy, empathy means to understand the feelings and personal meanings of the client. My use of empathy helps me relate to the other person’s situation and comprehend his or her emotions in order to authenticate to the client that he or she is truly being understood. By being empathetic, I can prove to the other person that he or she is compassionate towards his or her situation.

“The therapist enters the client’s frame of reference, tries to see the world from the client’s subjective perspective, listens from the inside as if he or she were the client, and tracks the client’s subjective experience moment-by moment as it unfolds” (Greenberg etal 1996:103).

I feel that empathy along with trustworthiness is extremely important elements of counselling other people. Important to apply feelings of empathy towards the client. 2 kinds of empathy play a vital role when I am counselling somebody one is basic and the other is additive. Basic empathy is when the listener’s responses are roughly interchangeable with those of the client. Accuracy holds major importance because the therapist repeats what the client has stated, if the restatement is wrong it could lead to mistrust in the session.

An example of basic empathy would consist of reflection of feeling and restatements, “You’re sad and confused. You’ve tried to establish a better relationship with your children, but they seem to not pay attention. You feel they don’t love you. You’ve just given up.” With basic empathy, the counsellor is then responding to the client with a restatement to ensure accuracy. When the interviewer adds on a response over and above what the client has emphasized is known as additive empathy.

This form of empathy can pose positive experiences to a session by demonstrating to the client that the counsellor is listening. An instance of additive empathy can be as follows: the therapist states that he can see that the client is disturbed and confused, and that he realizes that client feels that he cannot go on like this any more and has given up hope. The therapist further says that after listening to the client, he has come to the conclusion that the client’s feelings are absolutely understandable.

The therapist can show empathy by means of both verbal as well as nonverbal communication.

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My use of empathy can be well expressed by what Duncan etal (2004) stated in his book:

“Therapists can accommodate therapy to the client’s goals by listening and then amplifying the stories and experiences that clients offer about their problems, including their thoughts, feelings, and ideas about ‘where they want to go and the best way to get there” (Duncan etal 2004:69).

Thus through a complete observation I can conclude that empathy assures the other person that I am listening and truly understand him or her. This makes the person trust the listener and tell him all his problems in depth. So it can also be said that empathy may be an extremely important tool for therapists and counsellor.


  1. Duncan L. Barry, Miller D. Scott, Sparks Jacqueline (2004); The Heroic Client: A Revolutionary Way to Improve Effectiveness Through Client-Directed, Outcome-Informed Therapy. Wiley publications p. 65
  2. Greenberg S. Leslie, Rice N. Laura, Elliott Robert (1996); Facilitating Emotional Change: The Moment-by-Moment. Process Guilford Press p. 103
  3. Lukas Susan (1993); Where to Start and What to Ask: An Assessment Handbook.. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition pp. 2-3

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