A few practical skills and microskills that a professional counsellor needs to establish and maintain a professional relationship with a client include empathy, active listening, reflection of meaning, affirmations, validation, summarising; the true skill is to master all of these with an open mind and having a non-judgmental opinion. Empathy is a crucial skill and one of the most important; it can also come under two parts: Mirroring what another person is feeling or just feeling stressed when we detect another’s fear or anxiety is called “affective empathy,” which refers to the sensation and feelings we get in response to others’ emotions (Loughran, 2018). The ability to identify and understand another person’s emotions can sometimes be called “perspective talking” or “cognitive empathy.”
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Active listening involves being immersed in a conversation and fully committed to hearing the speaking person. Active listeners focus attention not only on what the communication partner is saying but also on their paralinguistic aspects such as gestures and facial expressions (Worthington & Fitch-Hauser, 2018). Reflection of meaning involves exploring the true beliefs and perspectives underlying various life experiences and bringing them to the surface to study them in detail. Affirmations refer to messages which can be consciously and subconsciously transmitted to a person’s mind reinforcing certain positive behaviors (Dykes et al., 2017). Validation is the recognition of another person’s internal experiences as being valid. Emotional validation is distinguished from emotional invalidation in which your own or another person’s emotional experiences are readjusted, ignored, or judged (Langs, 2019). Self-validation is the recognition and acknowledgment of your own internal experience. Finally, summarising refers to a paraphrasing of feelings, thoughts, and emotions of a person and putting them in a succinct form, thus identifying the main points voiced by the individual.
The aforementioned skills are essential for the successful development of professional relationships and for establishing proper communication between the specialist and the client. Empathy is fundamental for counsellors since it lets them understand the feelings which their experience on a deeper level. Only by realizing what the client is experiencing can the counsellor provide appropriate help and assistance and correctly assess the degree of their problem (McLeod, 2019). Active listening is important since it assists the counsellor in detecting the keywords and reflecting and or repeating them back to the client. It also helps track whether the client’s body language and facial expressions change depending on their answers. This allows more information to be gathered and ultimately contributes to the establishment of professional relationships.
Reflection of meaning encourages the client to take their time to better understand their emotions, thus letting them feel more relaxed and heard within a safe space. Essentially, using reflection of meaning, the counsellor explains to the client what certain experiences in their life meant to them and builds rapport between the two individuals (Reiter, 2017). Affirmations are another type of behaviour which assists the counselor in building a stronger bond with their client by encouraging them and reinforcing their positive beliefs. Validation is also essential for the development of professional relationships because it is a microskill which ultimately lets the counselor believe their client and not dismiss their emotions as invalid. When the client sees that the counselor is genuinely interested in their story, they will be more likely to mention all of the important details about their life. Finally, summarising is important because it can assist the counselor in identifying what was discussed and what will be looked at next time. Thus, the client will be certain that the counselor listens to them and has a path which can eventually lead to positive results.
Representatives of culturally diverse populations are starting to use the services of counsellors more frequently, and professionals need to adjust their practices to help these people in a proper manner. Empathy is one of the main microskills which counselors must employ when assisting individuals of diverse backgrounds. For instance, white counselors must realize that they will not be able to fully experience the racial discrimination which their black clients might be subject to. As a result, such counsellors should use their empathy to better understand the experiences of their clients. Active listening is another microskill which is fundamental for all counselors but especially those who are dealing with culturally diverse clients. For example, counsellors can use active listening when working with people whose English is not their native language and, therefore, they find it hard to speak in it.
Counselors can help such people by asking them additional questions, formulating their ideas in a better way, and restating what they previously said. Reflection of meaning is a universal skill which can be utilized in the same way with people of any cultural background. In other words, counsellors can use a reflection of meaning to provide their culturally diverse clients with a better understanding of their own experiences. Affirmations are a tool which should be employed extensively by counselors when working with clients of different backgrounds. Minorities often experience systemic discrimination, which causes them to develop an inferiority complex. Counselors can use affirmations to encourage such people to believe in themselves and realize that they must not be limited by society’s prejudices. Validation is key when the counsellor belongs to a privileged group since, in such cases, diverse clients may not trust them. Through validation, the counselor can show that they are concerned about their clients. Finally, summarizing when working with diverse people should be focused on the points which are culturally relevant to the client and not the counselor.
Dykes, F., Postings, T., Kopp, B., & Crouch, A. (2017). Counselling skills and studies. SAGE.
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Langs, R. (2019). Ground rules in psychotherapy and counselling. Routledge.
Loughran, H. (2018). Counselling skills for social workers. Routledge.
McLeod, J. (2019). An introduction to counselling and psychotherapy: Theory, research, and practice. McGraw-Hill Education.
Reiter, M. (2017). Family therapy: An introduction to process, practice and theory. Routledge.
Worthington, D., & Fitch-Hauser, M. (2018). Listening: Processes, functions, and competency. Routledge.