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Session 4 - Individual Counseling Skills

Overview of Course

Introductory Session

Family and Values


Individual Counseling 2

Individual Counseling 3



checkmark Objectives: To learn how counseling differs from other interactions; to learn some communication methods that are not helpful; to recognize the importance of body language and nonverbal communication and to learn how to ask open ended questions.


I. Check In5
II. Reports on Challenges 10
III. Warm Up 5
IV. Introduction to Role Playing 10
V. Communication Mistakes: Discussion and Role Play 45
VI. Break15
VII. Nonverbal Attending 25
VIII. Open Ended Questions 40
IX.Assign Challenge10



II. Challenge Reports

Process Questions:
  • How did you feel talking with this person?
  • What did you learn?

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III. Warm Up - Line Up By Age

Explain that we have gotten to know each other a little and have some acute observations about ourselves and other class members. They are asked to form a line from youngest to oldest. No talking, body language or other nonverbal conversation is allowed. When they are satisfied with the line, each person tells their age and changes place in line as needed. Participants are then paired by youngest with oldest, next youngest with next oldest, etc. In the case of an odd number, the middle group will have three members. These pairs will work together on the activities for the evening.

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IV. Introduction to Role Playing

Before starting the activities, stress the following points:
  • Role Plays are designed to practice new skills
  • They should NOT be used as an opportunity to resolve personal problems
  • When choosing a problem to role play, pick something you are familiar with but not something which is a personal problem for you at the time
  • Some people become very anxious about doing role plays. If this happens try to think of the experience as a play. You are an actor and for the moment you are someone else
  • When playing the part of a client, present realistic problems and respond to what the counselor is saying and doing. You will start to feel if a technique is working even though it is "pretend"
  • No not overdo being a difficult client as this does not present a good learning opportunity
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V. Communication Mistakes
Parenting Teenagers: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Teens pp. 45-46

A. Discussion
Discuss the difficulties in communication when people respond to others' problems based on their own needs rather than really hearing another person. Review the communication roles presented in STEP-Teen: Commander-In-Chief; Moralist; Know-It-All; Judge; Critic; Consoler; Amateur Psychologist. Discuss why these types of responses are not effective

B. Role Playing

  • Each pair, as determined by the line up activity is given a counselor card which briefly describes one of the miscommunication styles and some suggested responses for that style of miscommunication. All pairs are given the same client scenario and are to decide who will be the client and the counselor. They are to role play this scenario. The client can expand on the scenario and the counselor can use other responses which fit the style.
  • Groups are given 5 or 10 minutes to practice their scenario.
  • Groups then play the scenario for the large group
  • Focus discussion on how it felt to be the client and receive these responses
  • Repeat with partners exchanging roles and different client scenarios as time allows

Role Play Cards:

AMATEUR PSYCHOLOGIST: Questions, analyzes and diagnoses.Says things like:
  • The trouble is you let him walk all over you
  • Why did you take that approach?
  • You are too concerned with being liked - it's good for you to be angry
  • You have to overcome your past issues about anger

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF: Orders the upset person to get rid of the negative feelings. The "order" may be given politely, but the tone conveys what the person must do.Says things like:
  • You need to stop feeling that way
  • Don't feel angry, it's not helping
  • Take it easy you are going to raise your blood pressure
  • You worry too much, just stop it

CONSOLER: Doesn't really want to get involved, thus lightly dismisses the upset person's feelings. Believes a pat on the back, some reassurance or a cup of chicken soup will take care of everything. Says things like:
  • You'll feel better after you've had a chance to relax
  • Things always work out for the best
  • Once you think it over you'll know what to do
  • Things always look better the next day
CRITIC: Has to be right. Uses ridicule, name-calling, sarcasm and jokes to respond to an upset person. Says things like:
  • Act your age
  • Why do you think you are so terrific that nothing bad can ever happen
  • He can't be that bad, you always exaggerate
  • You were rude so what did you expect
JUDGE: Evaluates and pronounces judgment on other people's feelings. People who take the role of judge are interested in proving themselves right and the other person wrong. Says things like:
  • What mess are you in now?
  • What can you expect, you are the one who got angry
  • It was your fault for getting angry
  • You were wrong this time
KNOW-IT-ALL: Has all the answers. Lectures, advises, reasons, appeals to logic and generally acts superior. Says things like:
  • I told you so, you shouldn't be living with that person
  • Think about it for a minute, why did you have to get angry
  • Use your head
  • When I had this problem I just told her I would do it my way
MORALIST: Tells the upset person what he or she "should" or "should not" feel and do. Says things like:
  • You shouldn't let him get you so upset
  • That's not the right way to handle it
  • You should apologize for what you did
  • You shouldn't feel bad about this

Sample Client Scenario: You are having trouble getting along with your roommate or partner. The other person has been complaining that you are not doing your share of the work. You believe that you are doing more than your share.
You have come to see a counselor because you are starting to feel angry most of the time. You want to handle the situation in a mature positive manner, but lately you have lost your temper and said some nasty things that you later regretted. As a result your relationship is starting to suffer.

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VII. Nonverbal Attending

A. Discussion
Brainstorm a list of good body language attending skills by a counselor. List should include:
  • eye contact
  • posture (including changes in posture depending on the situation)
  • head nods - expressions of interest
  • comfortable environment
  • lack of distractions
  • not trying to do another task
  • no phone calls
B. Activity
Have half the class step out of the room. Allow the other half to choose a Feelings Card which they are comfortable portraying non verbally (bored, interested, angry, distracted, happy, sad, frustrated, calm, etc.). To make this work well, be sure that interested and bored are chosen. Have the individuals portray their feeling, thinking about body language, eye contact etc. When everyone has an accurate and comfortable portrayal of the feeling, bring the other group into the room. Explain that they are a group of people with a personal problem for which they are seeking a counselor's help. They are to walk around the room and observe each potential counselor, noting body language, eye contact etc. They are to decide which counselor they would want to see and stand by that person. Emphasize that they should only consider the nonverbal communication, not anything else they may know about the person.

Process what attracted them to certain counselors and made them not chose others. Focus on specific behaviors.

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VIII. Open Ended Questions

A. Discussion
Discussion of the difference between open ended and closed ended questions and the differences in when you use them
  • closed: can be answered by yes, no or one word or short phrase - used when the purpose is to gather information, for example, at an intake, taking a survey, etc. - How many brothers and sisters do you have?
  • open: can only be answered by providing more detailed information - used to explore a situation in more depth - Tell me about your family while you were growing up
  • Hand out examples of open and closed ended questions

Open ended questions help gain a deeper understanding of what is being said. They include questions such as:
  • How important is that to you?
  • What is another choice you have?
  • How did you feel when that happened?
  • What did you do when he or she did that?
  • What are your reasons for saying that?
  • What would you like to have happen?
  • What is an example?
  • What would happen if you did that?
  • Can you tell me what you mean by that?
Closed ended questions give a "yes" or "no" response. They include questions such as:
  • Did you enter the hospital yesterday?
  • Did you drink before you got into the car?
  • Do you drink often?
  • Do you like your doctor?
  • Do you like hospital food?
Source: Painter, C. 1989. Friends Helping Friends Program P. 44

B. Role Play

  • Ask the same pairs to work together as in the miscommunication exercise
  • This time they are to take turns being counselor and client (about 5 minutes each) and ask open ended questions to learn more about the situation
  • They may use the same client situation as previously or use Client 2 situation.
  • After both have had a chance at each role, each pair role plays for the group
  • Focus summary discussion on how the clients felt differently in the two situations and the variety of open ended questions

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IX. Assign Challenge

Challenge: Have a conversation with someone in which you ask open ended questions to learn more about how that person feels about something important to him or her. At the end of the conversation, summarize the person's thoughts and feelings and ask if your summary is accurate.

What I Did and the Other Person's Response:

How I Felt:

What I Learned:

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