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Session 6 - Individual Counseling Skills 3

Overview of Course

Introductory Session

Family and Values


Individual Counseling 1

Individual Counseling 2



checkmark Objectives: To learn the skill of I Messages and the concept of problem ownership.


I. Check In5
II. Reports on Challenges 10
III. Warm Up 10
IV. Review Feelings, Open Ended Questions and Active Listening 15
V. I Messages Presentation and Activity 35
VI. Break15
VII. Problem Ownership Presentation and Exercise 30
VIII. Active Listening vs I Messages 45
IX.Assign Challenge15



II. Challenge Reports

Process Questions:
  • How difficult/easy was it to use this skill?
  • Did you have any trouble figuring out what the person was feeling?
  • How did the other person respond to this approach?

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III. Warm Up - Using Feelings Words

Ask each person to write down one word which best describes how she is feeling. Divide the group in half and present them with some silly object (dirty ripped sneaker, dead plant, outdated calendar, etc.). Each group must devise a sales pitch for the object using all of their feeling words. Each word must be used in a different sentence.

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IV. Review Feelings, Open Ended Questions and Active Listening

Each person takes a feeling card. One at a time the participants say "The last time I felt this way was when . . ." (they may not use the feeling word). Through the use of open ended questions and active listening, the group must guess the feeling on the card.

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V. I Messages

Presentation Distribute the following I Messages Handout and review with the group.


I messages are a way to confront a personís behavior without attacking the person. They are used when someoneís behavior is making you uncomfortable or interfering with your wants, needs or rights. I messages are a nonjudgmental means of communicating that focus on behavior. When you use an I message, you take responsibility for your feelings and avoid blame and defensiveness. You also allow for the possibility that others have a difference of opinion.

The basic elements of an I Message are: I feel . . .

When you . . .

Because . . .

Before you use an I Message to confront someone with a difficult topic, think about:

1. When to do it. Pick a time when there will be no other distractions or pressures.

2. How to do it. Use "I" statements. Donít use "why" or interrupt when the other person is speaking. it is important to listen to what the other person has to say, Because most people have different values and perspectives, it is important to speak with "I" statements rather that generalities.

3. Know what you want to say and what you want to happen as a result of your confrontation. Practice, if you need to, before you talk with the person. Be very clear about how you feel and exactly what points you want to get across

4. Be willing to reach a mutually acceptable solution and to work to make it happen.

5. Understand that people do not always act rationally and fairly and that you cannot change them.

  • Divide into pairs (alphabetically by last name - if one group needs 3 people, it is the last alphabetically)
  • Each pair gets 2 cards with situations which call for confronting someone with an I message (3 cards if there is one group of 3)
  • They decide which situation each wants to be the confronter
  • Role play giving I messages and responding. Continue each situation until resolution is reached or resolution seems impossible.
  • Discuss results as a large group
  • Process Questions: What did and did not work?
    Did the confronter use I Messages?
    Was each person willing to go half way?
    What approach would have worked better

Role Playing Scenarios

1. You are working in a Day Care Center. Your co-worker has left early three times this week with vague excuses. When he leaves early, you have to do all the paper work and you do not feel this is fair.

Think of a time and place where you will confront this person and how you will do it.

2. You are a very neat person and you are living with someone who never seems to pick up after herself. You enjoy this personís company and aside from this messy habit you would like to continue the living arrangement.

Think of a time and place where you will confront this person and how you will do it

3. A colleague has been telling jokes which put other races and cultures in a bad light. You are uncomfortable with this but you have not said anything because she seems to be very popular and everyone else laughs at the jokes

Think of a time and place where you will confront this person and how you will do it

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VII. Problem Ownership

Explain the need to determine who owns the problem to determine whether to use Active Listening or I Messages.

If someone elseís behavior is bothering you in some way - you own the problem and would use an I Message to confront it.

If someone else has a problem - use Active Listening to talk with them about it.

  • A friend agreed to do something with you and did not show up
  • A friend is sad about something that happened with his family
  • A coworker tells you during lunch about problems with her children
  • A coworker has left early three times this week and has left you to do the work alone

Distribute the Problem Ownership Worksheet (below).

Ask each person to think of either their work, school or home situation and write down 3 examples for each category.(other personís problem, own problem or no problem)

Have everyone write their examples on the board or newsprint

Discuss differences and similarities - some behaviors may appear in more than one category

Practice Ask for volunteers to pick a behavior from the "My Problem" or "Other Personís Problem" categories and role play I Messages or Active Listening. Another volunteer acts as the "counselee" or "confrontee". Continue until everyone who wants to participate has had a chance

I OWN THE PROBLEM. Someone else's behavior is affecting me.

NO PROBLEM. Other person's behavior is meeting his needs and is not affecting me.

OTHER PERSON OWNS THE PROBLEM. Another person is experiencing a problem which does not affect me.

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VIII. Active Listening vs I Messages

  • Distribute I Messages Or Active Listening Worksheets and ask everyone to complete them individually. Stress that some of the items could have more than one correct answer. They should complete them by what makes sense to them
  • Review each item
  • Ask for volunteers to role play selected items. If there is disagreement, it is a good idea to role play the situation both ways


? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

For each of the situations below decide what you think would be the most appropriate response. First decide who owns the problem or if there is a problem. Check the AL (Active Listening) or IM (I Message) box or if there is no problem leave them blank.
Situation AL IM
A friend is having problems with his children    
Your parent wants you to visit every weekend and you want more time for yourself    
You are counseling a person who can not decide whether to stop using alcohol even though the detrimental effects on her life are obvious    
A friend asks for a ride to the garage to pick up her car    
A friend has promised you a ride to the garage and does not show up or call.    
A cashier at the super market learns that you are a counselor and tells you about her problems while ringing up your groceries    
Your son confides that he has been using marijuana and would like to stop but is finding it hard because of peer pressure    
Your daughter tells you that she is pregnant and wants to have an abortion    
A child tells you of sexual abuse. (Think about your initial response, not your legal requirements)    
A person close to you loves to eat hot peppers. You hate them.    
A client is depressed because a friend just committed suicide.    
A client consistently comes late for appointments and expects that she will still get the same amount of time    
A young child in your program says "I hate you and Iím going to tell my parents that you are mean to me." You have no idea why she said this    
A co-worker and friend leaves work early every Wednesday and asks you to cover for him    
A co-worker and friend leaves work early every Wednesday because he has a counseling appointment. He does not want the supervisor to know that he is going to counseling and asks you to cover for him.    
An acquaintance asks you to recommend a counselor.    
Your best friend has just lost her job and is not making any effort to look for a new one    
You havenít learned anything by completing this worksheet    

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IX. Assign Challenge

Challenge: Use an I Message to confront someone about an aspect of their behavior that affects you. Before confronting that person review all the steps in the handout.

What I Did and the Other Person's Response:

How I Felt:

What I Learned:

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