What Are Counselling Skills? Definition and How To Improve Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 16 November 2022 | Published 4 October 2021

Updated 16 November 2022

Published 4 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Counsellors help people develop skills and strategies to handle life's challenges better. Counsellors play an important role in society if they possess the right skills to make a positive impact on their clients. To prepare for a career as a counsellor, it's essential to know the skills required for the profession so that you can take steps towards developing them. In this article, we define counselling skills, list five common types, demonstrate how to improve them and explain how to highlight them during a job search.

Related:

  • What Is Counselling? Definition and Role of a Counsellor

  • What Is Counselling Psychology and Is It Suitable for You?

What are counselling skills?

Counselling is a form of talk therapy or treatment that helps clients process personal issues and overcome the obstacles preventing them from living a happy life. During this process, clients are encouraged to talk unbridledly to their counsellor, which works as a form of catharsis and helps unlock suppressed emotions.

Related: How To Become a Counsellor: A Step-by-Step Guide

Why are counselling skills important?

Counselling skills can be useful in many situations. People with these skills may pursue counselling as a career path. Others may use their skills to give wise and sound advice to improve their relationships with friends, family members and colleagues. There are many careers where these skills would be useful. For example, teachers and human resource professionals use counselling skills in their daily work functions.

What are important skills for counsellors?

There is a range of skills that a counsellor can use to improve their understanding of their clients. These skills can also help clients feel at ease and share their emotional challenges. These are some of the valuable skills a good counsellor possesses:

1. Active listening

Counsellors need excellent communication skills. Active listening is an essential aspect of communication and is critical during a counselling session. Active listening may involve using eye contact, non-verbal gestures and facial expressions to show a client that you're engaged and focused on them. This helps a client feel validated when they're sharing with a counsellor.

2. Analysis of non-verbal communication

The ability to analyse clients' non-verbal communication is critical for counsellors. Non-verbal communication includes many elements such as one's posture, hand gestures and whether one maintains eye contact. Good counsellors are able to identify and interpret their clients' non-verbal behaviours to discern what's not being said during a session.

3. Being trustworthy

An essential part of being a counsellor is the ability to build and maintain trust with clients. Building rapport with a client increases their willingness to be vulnerable and honest during a counselling session. Counsellors can build trust by expressing a genuine interest in their client's well-being.

4. Asking the right questions

Counsellors ask questions to clarify their understanding of what a client said and to reveal their hidden emotions. They use reflection to show the client that they have listened to them and to validate the client's feelings.

Counsellors can use two types of questioning when working with clients, namely, closed and open questioning. Open questioning involves the counsellor asking the client questions to gather complex and detailed information. Counsellors use closed questioning when asking clients short-ended questions with specific answers.

5. Interpretation

Sometimes clients provide incomplete information to counsellors. The counsellor interprets this information and helps clients see new meaning in their thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Interpretations by a counsellor can assist clients in identifying patterns or developing connections between events that appeared isolated at first.

What are the qualities of a good counsellor?

The following are qualities of a good counsellor:

Self-awareness

Counsellors' self-awareness helps them improve the use of their knowledge and skills better. Self-awareness allows a counsellor to develop an understanding of their client's perceptions of them. Their awareness of the impact of their tone of voice, body language and gestures on the client is useful for them. Counsellors can control their non-verbal communication to avoid looking bored, frustrated or showing signs of judging the client.

Empathy

Empathy is a vital quality to understand how a client feels. It helps them to ask a client appropriate questions to guide the client to make positive conclusions. Benefits associated with compassion include greater trust between the client and the counsellor. It may result in the client experiencing greater self-understanding and feelings of security.

Confidentiality

Clients tend to share more information with counsellors if sessions are confidential. Confidentiality means respecting their clients and protecting the information shared by them. A counsellor usually lets the client know that they may share information the client provided with the relevant authorities if they feel the client may harm themselves or others.

Related: Hard Skills Vs. Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

How to improve your skills for counselling

You can follow these steps to maximise your impact on your clients:

1. Roleplay counselling sessions with a friend

You can practise your skills by asking a trusted friend to pretend to be your client. You can have a mock session and record yourself. Afterwards, you can ask your friend about their thoughts and what they liked and disliked about your counselling style, including the questions you asked and your body language. You can also review the footage to do a self-assessment of your skills to identify areas you can improve on in the future.

2. Practise analysing body language

You can try body language analysis in your daily life to help you interpret the client's body language and attitudes about specific topics. For example, you can observe the facial expression, tone of voice and posture of the cashier in the supermarket's checkout line or someone you pass on the street. When talking to someone, try to assess how they use body language.

3. Find an experienced mentor

You can look for an experienced counselling mentor to help you improve your skills. You may consult them and find out the most effective counselling techniques to use during your sessions with clients. You can also learn about skills and techniques you can use with challenging clients.

Counsellor skills in the workplace

You can practice your skills in the workplace and monitor how effectively you use them. You can use these ways to incorporate your abilities into daily practices in the workplace:

Be aware of your body language

An awareness of their body language during a counselling session is an essential skill for counsellors. A client may have a concern that the counsellor may judge them for their past behaviour or actions. When a counsellor realises this, they can maintain a warm, accepting expression to reassure the client.

Review your client notes

Counsellors can review previous sessions' notes to prepare for an upcoming counselling session. This type of preparation can help a counsellor remember the items discussed with the client in past sessions. It can also help them strategise their approach for an upcoming session by considering the questions they want to ask the client.

Maintain confidentiality

It is of utmost importance for counsellors to maintain client confidentiality at all times. Counsellors cannot share information provided by a client in a counselling session with their colleagues or team members. You can share information generically while not disclosing any client-specific information.

Respect your client's boundaries

To effectively build trust and make a client feel comfortable, a counsellor can ask focused questions instead of asking too many questions. A good counsellor uses the information provided by a client to direct the conversation. It may take a long time to build trust with a client before they feel comfortable enough to share personal information with you.

Ways to highlight your counsellor skills for a job search

Here are several ways to highlight your counsellor skills on your resume, cover letter and during an interview:

Including counsellor skills on your resume

Review the job description carefully and then list your related skills in your resume. Match your skills with the required skills to show the hiring manager you're a perfect candidate for the position. You can include details of your counsellor skills in your resume's summary, skills and work experience sections.

This approach may also help you if the company uses a keyword tracker. By listing the skills required by the position in your resume, a keyword tracker may pull your resume from the pool of other resumes since you included the keywords it would look for in resumes.

Related: Selecting the Right Resume Skills in 5 Simple Steps

Including counsellor skills in your cover letter

You can incorporate details of your work experience and skills in your cover letter. It may be helpful to focus on your skills that match those listed in the job advertisement. Give examples of how you can use your skills to meet the position's requirements.

Related: How To Write a Cover Letter

Showing your counsellor skills during a job interview

You can use the job interview to show that you're the best candidate for a counsellor's position. You can use active listening to demonstrate to the hiring manager you can use positive gestures and body language to show an interest in the speaker and what they're saying. You can also show that you're compassionate and trustworthy during an interview. Do this by demonstrating to the interviewer that you're friendly and open, qualities that can help with making a potential client feel comfortable during a session.

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