Listening skills & counselling

Problems with communication is a common reason people seek counselling. The counsellor is in a unique position to model and teach clients the value of effective listening. Being a thoughtful listener and strong communicator are critical components for a successful counsellor. Clients who decide to carefully listen during counselling can emerge with new skills to help with conflict resolution and problem solving.


Counselling sessions are a safe place to learn and practice listening techniques. According to The Counsellor's Guide, "Active listening and responding appropriately are two of the key skills a counsellor or therapist must apply during one-to-one counselling sessions with a client." Clients can use this time to ask questions to gain an understanding of their own communication deficits.

Active Listening

Clients should actively participate in counselling sessions. It is important for the process that the counsellor has the client's full attention. Looking directly at the counsellor signals client involvement in the session. The client's body language also indicates she is listening. Clients can ask for clarification to ensure their interpretations about what is being said are accurate.

Reflective Statements

Reflective listening means that a person hears what is said and can accurately explain the speaker's thoughts and feelings. It is a key element in listening skills and can be done in counselling sessions by both the counsellor and client. The Counseling Deparment at Northern Kentucky University explains that reflective statements "are not the same as agreements; rather, they are a way of demonstrating that you intend to hear and understand another's point of view."

Positive Consequences

When clients and counsellors both engage in active listening during counselling sessions there are positive consequences for both. If clients feel they are being heard they are more apt to be honest and talk openly about the issues that brought them to counselling. When clients are actively participating in therapy, counsellors can gain the information they need to offer insights and feedback to help clients solve their identified problems.


Listening in an open, nonjudgemental manner facilitates honesty between the counsellor and client, which creates an atmosphere of mutual trust, healing, and growth. Participation in counselling sessions requires a sense of commitment from all involved parties. Watching and working with a skilled counsellor can be a rewarding experience for a client who is open to listening and learning. The lessons learnt through counselling can last a lifetime, bringing a new quality of life and more meaning to the client's relationships.

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About the Author

Iris Waichler is a licensed clinical social worker, author and of the award-winning "Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire" and co-author of "A Book is Born." She has also written for FertilityAuthority, the American Fertility Association and "Chicago Parent Magazine." Waichler received a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Social Work from the University of Iowa.

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