Home | Links | Ideas | FAQ's | Search | Site Map

youthwork links and ideas counseling

Session 5 - Individual Counseling Skills 2

Overview of Course

Introductory Session

Family and Values


Individual Counseling 1

Individual Counseling 3



checkmark Objectives: To learn the skill of Active Listening.


I. Check In5
II. Reports on Challenges 10
III. Warm Up 10
IV. Feelings Activity 15
V. Active Listening Presentation 30
VI. Break15
VII. Active Listening Practice 60
VIII. Active Listening Mistakes 15
IX.Assign Challenge15



II. Challenge Reports

Process Questions:
  • How hard was it to ask open ended questions?
  • How accurate were your summaries?

Back To Outline

III. Warm Up - Basic Emotions

Each person gets a card with mad, sad, glad or scared on it. They are to express this emotion non-verbally, determine who else has the same card and divide into groups based on the same cards. Each person is given a list of feeling words and each group chooses a feeling from the list which is similar to their cards to act out in charades for the group to guess.

Back To Outline

IV. Feelings Activity

(Source: Feelings Marketplace) Each person is given five feelings cards. Their goal is to collect a set of four cards which describe how they are feeling at the present time. They can trade cards with other group members. At the end of the activity, each person may discard one feeling if it does not fit. Each person then uses the sentence "I feel …….Because……." to present their four cards to the group.

Back To Outline

V. Active Listening Presentation
  • Way of developing relationships
  • Way of making sure you understand what a person is thinking, feeling, experiencing
  • Not a way of changing behavior, although building a relationship may be helpful here
  • "You feel……..when…….." important to vary the formula
  • You feel - state a feeling, not what happened or your interpretation - using "that" or "like" after the word feel usually means that you are not about to state a feeling
  • When - state the facts (what the other person has said) not your interpretation
  • Have the group complete the Attentive Listening interactive program.

Back To Outline

VII. Active Listening Practice

1. Distribute Active Listening Phrases Handout.
Tell the class that you are going to role play someone in distress. Each student is to use the phrases from the handout and from the feelings words handout to construct an active listening response. Insist that students stick to the format exactly until they are comfortable with the skill. Do the exercise 2 or 3 times, using different examples, until everyone is proficient in constructing active listening sentences.

2. Divide the group into pairs, distribute 3 Client Role Play Cards. The client chooses one situation and presents it to the counselor. The counselor uses active listening until the client feels the "You feel…when . . . " statement is correct. Then switch roles. Depending on time, this can be done until each person has been both counselor and client in each situation.

3. Using the same pairs - one will be the counselor and the other the client. The client chooses a feeling word from the list and describes a situation in which she feels that way. She may not use the actual word. The counselor uses active listening until the client agrees with the "you feel…when…" statement. They then switch roles and repeat.

  • What was difficult . . . easy
  • Was it easier to use a role play card or a real situation
  • How did the clients feel about the technique
  • Can they picture doing this in real life situations


The following are some ways that active listening responses may be constructed. A statement should have a phrase from Column A and Column B. To vary your style you can state either the feeling (Column A) or the situation (Column B) first. As you become more comfortable with the skill of active listening, you will develop your own ways of communicating that you are hearing both the feeling and the content
State the Feeling
State the Situation
You feel . . . When . . .
You sound . . . About . . .
You look . . . That . . .
You are . . . Whenever . . .
You get . . . Because. . .
It makes you . . .
You sound like you’re feeling. . .
You look like you are . . .
You are feeling . .


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.

Back To Outline

VIII. Active Listening Mistakes
From, Parent Effectiveness Training, Gordon, p. 92-94.
Review handout on Common active Listening Mistakes. After each example ask for responses which better reflect active listening. Ask for volunteers to role play better responses.


Manipulating Through "Guidance"
This happens when you use active listening as a way to promote your own message or solution rather than listening to another person’s feelings.
CLIENT: I hope I don’t get fired. My boss really yelled at me today because I missed the deadline on that important project.
COUNSELOR: You are worried that you might get fired. (active listening)
CLIENT: I will get fired if I don’t make the final deadline in two more days. Maybe I ought to just quit.
COUNSELOR: You are feeling discouraged but it would be better for you to work overtime to meet the deadline. It won’t be easy getting a new job. (Here the counselor clearly wanted to avoid the client being fired, but instead of letting the client explore his feelings and discover his own solution, advice was offered too quickly.)

Opening The Door Then Slamming It Shut
This happens when you initially encourage active listening and then withdraw. This is often because the counselor is uncomfortable with the client’s feelings.
CLIENT: I am so angry with my boss I could kill him.
COUNSELOR: That sounds pretty angry. (active listening)
CLIENT: Maybe I’ll just kill myself instead.
COUNSELOR: You know that won’t do any good. (counselor was uncomfortable with the expression of suicidal feelings)

This happens when you simply parrot back the facts and ignore the feelings.
CLIENT (looking depressed): My boss yelled at me when I missed the deadline.
COUNSELOR: Your boss yelled at you when you missed the deadline. (doesn’t reflect the emotional content of the message)

Listening Without Empathy
Empathy is a quality of communication that conveys to the sender of a message that the listener is feeling with him. Empathy requires hearing the feelings behind the message.
CLIENT: Meeting that deadline was asking too much of me. I did my best but it just wasn’t good enough. I’ll never be good enough.
COUNSELOR: You feel that it’s unfair that you should have had to do so much work.

Active Listening At The Wrong Times
There are several times which may be wrong, including:

The other person is merely providing information
COUNSELOR (doing an intake interview): What is your Social Security number?
CLIENT: I don’t remember. I don’t have my card with me
COUNSELOR: You’re feeling puzzled about your Social Security number

You do not have the time to really listen
COUNSELOR: You say you are feeling depressed, will you tell me more about that?
CLIENT: I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow to hear about my test results. She thinks I may have a terminal disease. I am really afraid to go to the appointment
COUNSELOR: You sound really scared, but I have someone else waiting. Well talk about this next week

The person is making a straightforward request
CLIENT: I would like to reschedule our appointment for today because my children are sick and I have to take them to the doctor. When do you have some free time?
COUNSELOR: You are curious about when I have free time.

The person is asking a simple question
CLIENT: I have a question about how to fill out this insurance form. What does ‘duration of inherent pre-existing psychobabble on axis 7 or axis 9 (if applicable)’ mean?
COUNSELOR: You are worried that you have a psychobabble condition on axis 7 or 9.

IX. Assign Challenge

Challenge: Practice Active Listening in a conversation with a friend or family member. This will be easiest to do if your friend has a problem or is upset about something. If a problem situation does not arise, ask someone to practice with you. What was your friend's reaction to the experience?

What I Did and the Other Person's Response:

How I Felt:

What I Learned:

Back To Outline


Home Links Ideas Stories FAQ's Search Site Map