15 Counselling Skills That Every Great Counselor Must Have

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Whether or not you are a certified counselor, counseling is one of the greatest skills to possess.
The practice of providing counsel to others has always existed in some form among humans. This is because we are social beings with various emotions and an intrinsic desire to avoid misery and enjoy an abundant life.

Today, one in every five American individuals suffers from a mental health disorder. However, research also suggests that many mental illnesses can be successfully treated.

Counseling can enable individuals to treat mental health disorders and maximize their happiness.
In this article, we explain and provide examples of counseling skills. Then, we will explore ways to apply these skills and understand how to use them during a job hunt.

We will also go through the significance of counseling in greater detail, including a list of benefits.

15 Counselling Skills That Every Great Counselor Must Have

What are Counseling Skills? Definition & Meaning

According to the American Counseling Association (ACA), professional counseling is the act of developing relationships with individuals to enable them to achieve their mental health and well-being, education, and career goals.

In addition, the counselor and their client are expected to work together collaboratively to achieve these goals. Most counselors will agree that being effective with clients is the key to building a solid counseling relationship.

However, while they understand the importance of a good counseling relationship, they also firmly believe that treatments backed by scientific research are critical. Counseling is acknowledged as a psychological process.

It is a process that considers a relationship with fundamental conditions and a range of treatments, with the purpose of changing how individuals feel, think, and behave so that they can live their lives more successfully.

Counseling skills are soft (interpersonal) and hard (technical) skills that counselors employ to assist their clients best. These skills help the clients work through their issues and challenges hindering them from enjoying a fulfilled life.

Mastering critical counseling skills can assist you in providing the best opportunities for your client to resolve their issues and live a better life…

15 Examples of Counseling Skills

Counseling skills are critical to helping you establish a meaningful relationship with your clients. Various counseling skills, such as excellent communication, problem-solving, and goal-setting, are vital to encourage and supporting the psychological process.

15 Examples of Counseling Skills

Developing these skills can also help you provide coping strategies to assist your client.

We will share a list of 15 counseling skills that underpins counseling sessions and help you achieve the counseling goals.


Attending skills in counseling means being physically present for the client. It also means giving them your undivided attention. These attentive gestures demonstrate that you care for your client.
The first skill a counselor learns is attending. It is the foundation which counselor build their skills upon.

Good attending skills will make your client feel respected and that you are listening to their story and experiences. They will feel become more comfortable sharing their inner feelings.


In therapy, silence allows the client to control the pace and topic they would like to discuss. In addition, practicing silence enables the client to speak openly about their problems.

Counselors will then pay close attention to silences and words used by the client. They recognize that keeping quiet and giving space to the client can facilitate the counseling process. This will allow the client to analyze their emotions and thoughts without distraction.

Reflecting and Paraphrasing

In counseling, reflecting is one essential component of the ‘art of listening.’ It ensures that the client feels that their story is being heard.

In counseling, reflection is similar to holding up a mirror and replaying the client’s words precisely as they said them. You may choose to repeat the entire sentence or a few words. Reflecting skill is also commonly known as ‘paraphrasing.’

Clarifying and Questioning

In counseling, questioning skill is considered a fundamental skill. In counseling, questions are helpful because they allow you to understand more about your client.

In addition, the questions you ask will set the tone for the whole session and counseling process.

There are two kinds of questions.

  • Closed-ended question: A closed-ended question can only be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ Such questions should be avoided in most situations as they do not facilitate deeper exploration.
  • Open-ended question: An open-ended question helps you gather information about your client. Such questions cannot be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Instead, it requires deeper reflection and thinking from the client’s side. Remember, your open questions should be deliberate and meaningful for the client.


In counseling, focusing skill refers to deciding which areas the client wants to address.
The client may have identified many topics and problems they want to tackle but is still determining where to begin.

Focusing skill can then helps the counselor and client to filter out less important information and prioritize the more critical issues.

Building Rapport

Building rapport is critical to the success of the therapeutic relationship. Building rapport with a client requires you to have a sense of connection with them.

It is one of the best ways to gain your client’s trust, making communication possible and easy. Rapport is built through sincerely engaging with the client and demonstrating genuine empathy.


In counseling, summaries are the lengthier paraphrases. The counselor will crystallize the essence of what the client says and feels and verify it with the client.

This summary highlights the major themes that emerged during the conversation. Summaries are usually provided towards the end of a counseling session or when the client finished sharing about a particular topic.


Immediacy means that the counselors express their feelings in reaction to what the client shares. Immediacy is described as a crucial skill focusing on the present and the relationship between counselor and client. It’s a skill that counselors utilize when they notice defensiveness and/or heighten awareness of the client at a suitable time.


Counselors should be proficient in systematic note-taking methods. This skill will help counselors capture key points discussed during the session and information shared by the client. The collected information can then be utilized for future reference or whenever needed.


Counselors should be able to decipher ambiguous information shared by clients and contextualize it within the context of what they are experiencing.

For example, when counselors hear phrases such as “I’m simply so exhausted” or “I’m on edge all the time,” it is up to the counselors to interpret them. Counselors may ask more questions to probe further to confirm if their interpretation is correct.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication involves the transfer of messages or signals via a nonverbal medium such as eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, posture, and body language. Counselors should be able to interpret clients’ behaviors or feelings based on their non-verbal cues.


During counseling sessions, counselors must be conscious of their body language, gestures, and tone of voice. A counselor’s non-verbal cues may influence the client’s desire to share their problem or information. In addition, self-awareness can prevent counselors from inadvertently displaying any signals of boredom, annoyance, or judgment.


Establishing and maintaining trust with clients is a vital skill for a counselor. Whether the counseling process is successful depends on the client’s confidence in sharing their personal information with you.


Confidentiality is a critical component of counseling. It means that, under normal circumstances, counselors are not allowed to share their clients’ information with unauthorized people. Confidentiality in counseling provides a protected environment for clients to discuss anything they want. It also creates a safe space for people to seek help without fear of judgment.

Information Recall

Counselors need to be able to remember information shared by the clients from the prior session. Having this skill will help them to piece and relate separate information together. It will also guide counselors to ask directed and specific questions to understand their client’s issues better.

Why Is it Important To Recognize Counseling Skills?

Life adversities are inevitable. We could all benefit from some help when things get tough and someone to shine a light on during gloomy times.

Counseling may assist you regardless of depression, relationship, self-worth issues, or if you just need some direction in your life.

Here are the key benefits of counseling:

  1. Counseling allows you to understand yourself more deeply, such as your personality, values, and beliefs.
  2. Counseling enables you to develop self-awareness and gain insight into the difficulties you may be experiencing.
  3. Counselling provides you with a safe and non-judgmental environment to share your personal issues.
  4. You can discover what actions you need to take to change your self-defeating behaviors to more positive behaviors or habits.
  5. You learn to accept your shortcomings and imperfections as a natural aspect of being human.
  6. Counseling may help you rediscover your life purpose and meaning by exploring and understanding your values, beliefs, and hobbies.
  7. Improved emotion regulation and management to minimize unpleasant feelings from escalating and leading to undesirable behaviors.
  8. Allows you to express your frustrations, reveal hidden wounds, and release your resentments and bottled-up emotions.
  9. Foster hope, motivation, and encouragement to promote hope to be a better person and live a better life.
  10. Learn life skills that will lead to greater overall well-being for your body, mind, and soul.

How To Identify Your Counseling Skills

How To Identify Your Counseling Skills?

Here are several methods you can do to identify your counseling skills and determine which to develop further.

  1. Think about what you do in your current job.
  2. Reflect on your previous job experiences and education for transferable soft skills.
  3. Reflect on how you usually communicate with people around you. For example, do you demonstrate active listening when someone speaks to you? Are you aware of others’ feelings or emotions?

Bonus tip: You can take the strengths test from HIGH5 to discover your strengths. You can use the test result to identify your areas of development to improve your counseling skills too.

How To Improve Counseling Skills in The Workplace

To apply your counseling skills in the workplace, you must practice them frequently.

Here are a few suggestions to practice and improve your counseling skills:

1. Be conscious of your non-verbal cues.

Always be aware of your body language, especially during a counseling session. Depending on the circumstances, a client may be concerned about being judged while disclosing certain information. Therefore, always keep a friendly expression and tone to reassure your client that you are there to listen.

2. Go through your client notes both before and after sessions.

Every time you prepare for a counseling session with your client, you should review notes from past sessions. This will help you recall information to better direct your questions at your next appointment.

3. Do not disclose client’s personal details to others.

To maintain client confidentiality, you should avoid discussing a client’s personal concerns with your colleagues. If you wish to discuss this with your colleague, keep the information you share vague and avoid disclosing the client’s identity.

4. Refrain from pressuring your clients to disclose personal information.

You should avoid asking clients too many questions just to build trust. If you do this in your first few sessions with them, it may backfire on you. Instead, build your conversation around the information they shared with you. They will slowly become more comfortable with you over time and provide you with more information about themselves.

How To Highlight Counseling Skills In a Resume or a Job Interview

Knowing how to showcase your counseling expertise on your resume and during a job interview is essential. It will determine if a potential employer considers you a suitable candidate for the position you’re vying for.

Here are a few examples of how to include your counseling skills in your resume and job interview:

Include counseling experience on your CV.

On your CV, you may position yourself as the ideal candidate by combining your skills with those mentioned in the job description. For example, include your counseling expertise in your resume’s about me, skills, and professional experience sections.

Highlighting the keywords in your CV is especially useful if the organization you’re applying to utilizes a keyword tracker. You stand a higher chance of being shortlisted if the keywords you highlighted in your resume match those stated in the job description.

Highlight your counseling experiences during a job interview.

During a job interview, you should use the opportunity to present yourself as the ideal candidate for the counseling position. Take this chance to share your experiences and showcase your counseling skills.

Engage in active listening by demonstrating to the interviewer that you can apply positive body language and gestures. Make the interviewer feel you’re interested in what they are saying.

You should also portray your trustworthy and empathetic skills throughout the interview. Use your behavior and posture to show the interviewer that you appear warm, approachable, and welcoming.

Counseling Skills Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most important counseling skill?

You are required to be good at several skills to become a great counselor. However, communication skill is perhaps the most important skill of all. During counseling sessions, a counselor must listen and pay full attention to their client. They must also be aware of their client’s body language and non-verbal cues.

What are the 7 principles of counseling?

The 7 principles of counseling are:

  • Principle of Acceptance.
  • Principle of Communication.
  • Principle of Empathy.
  • Principle of Respect for the individual.
  • Principle of Non-Judgement.
  • Principles of Confidentiality.
  • Principle of Individuality.
  • Principle of Non-Emotional Involvement.
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