Listening In a Professional Counselling Setting

While we are paid to listen during a counselling session, sometimes it is hard for a client to feel heard.

So how to make a client feel heard?

  • Attending – watching, eye contact, posture and physical space, encourages (verbal – ahh, mmm and yes go on, and non verbal – nod) – being present with the client, not just in the room, but giving them your attention and showing it.
  • Listening – summarizing, questioning- clarification, reflecting content, meaning and affect  – showing you are paying attention
  • Define the problem– finding the cause of the issues
  • Setting goals
  • Managing sessions– leading, structuring and perspective

Don’t minimize other stuff by pointing out the ‘ real’ problem, they are all just as important to the client, no matter how trivial  they may seem to us.


  • Lean towards the client slightly, face them, handshake to welcome
  • Eye contact – look at them but allow them to look away without you boring into their soul
  • Vocally be welcoming and happy to see them and remain free of judgment

= a warm and comfortable environment

DO not hide behind objects, a desk or a cushion or a jumper held in front of you is a barrier.

If you want to take notes during the session, ask first and only write down words to jog your memory, later make time to do proper notes of session, but don’t write throught the session, you aren’t a cold and heartless person, how can you listenfully if you are doing something else. GIVE YOUR undivided attention.

When listening to someone, try and hear them, let them finish talking, don’t talk over them, let them finish. DO not offer advice, let them finish they are not helpless. Let them just feel how they feel, don’t deny them it.

DO NOT compare

DO NOT mind read

DO NOT rehearse what you will say

DO NOT filter what you hear

DO NOT judge

DO NOT day dream

DO NOT identify with it your self, saying that happened to me too is not appropriate

DO NOT advise on problems before fully hearing the story

DO NOT do not debate what they have said until fully listening

DO NOT demand to always be right

DO NOT derail a client or let a client do this to themselves-  what ever it is does matter, don’t let them say it doesn’t or make a joke out of it


Verbally and Non verbally

–        Gestures

–        Nods

–        Single words

–        Noises

–        Body posture

–        Repetition

Indicate involvement and interest

Open Questions:

–        Encourage Talk

–        It is reliant on the client saying more than two words

–        Encourages the client to fully express themselves in the direction they want to go in

–        Start with:

  • What…
  • How…
  • Why…
  • Could…

Closed Questions:

–        Takes the client along the path chosen by practioner

–        Can cause confusion

–        Start With:

  • How much..
  • Do…
  • Is…
  • Are…

How to interview:

–        Start broad

–        Use open ended qs to get client to open up and elaborate

–        Clarify and confirm with closed qs

–        But most of all, be judgment free, relaxed and normal


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