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Top 10 Counseling Skills

Top 10 Counseling Skills

One of the most crucial components of becoming an effective counselor is the ability to connect with your clients. They must feel comfortable with you if you are going to build their trust. Therefore, it is so important, as a therapist, to learn and develop the skills that help you make that connection with them. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the best way to develop effective counseling skills is to start with the right education.

Counseling Courses

Ottawa University can open the door to a successful career in counseling by teaching you essential skills through our counseling courses. Students typically begin their journey toward becoming a therapist by earning their Bachelor’s in Human Services and then continuing their education with a Master of Arts in Counseling. Mary Alice Grosser, MSW and Professor in Charge of Human and Social Services, ensures her experienced faculty in both departments provide state of the art curriculum from the field based on current research as well as their personal counseling experience. The following skills are emphasized throughout these counseling courses.

"Top 10" List of Counseling Skills

Ottawa University's faculty help students develop effective counseling skills and personal insights that can ensure their success in the challenging field of counseling. Instructors focus on the following counseling skills.

  1. Empathy
  2. Active Listening
  3. Strength-Based Practice
  4. Cultural Competence
  5. Assessment
  6. Client Engagement
  7. Developing Goals and Treatment Plans
  8. Recognizing the Effects of Trauma
  9. Self-exploration and Understanding
  10. Utilizing Evidence-Based Practice

Now let’s take a closer look at Professor Grosser's list of counseling skills!

  • Empathy

​Empathy can be described as the ability to see where the other person is coming from with genuine care and concern without judgment. The quality of the relationship between counselor and client can directly impact the outcome of therapy. The client must trust that the counselor truly cares and is committed to their wellbeing before sharing personal often painful information.

  • Active Listening

Active listening through both verbal and non-verbal responses shows the client you believe what they have to say is important. Often folks come to counseling feeling that their loved ones or close friends are not listening to or understanding them. Utilizing techniques such as paraphrasing and clarifying questions, the counselor ensures the client feels heard and understood.  

  • Strength-Based Practice

Usually, if someone is seeking counseling something upsetting is happening in their life or they are not feeling happy in their environment. If the counselor can reinforce what is positive in the client’s life vs just focusing on the negative, it can motivate the client to seek more of the positive. We all need to have something to feel good about to show us we can make progress and ensure we can see a happier future at the end of the counseling process.

  • Cultural Competence

We live in a diverse society. Therefore, client characteristics such as age, race, gender identification, and socioeconomic background all affect how clients look at themselves and the helping process. We as counselors need to go beyond cultural competence to cultural humility understanding we can not understand the issues that face our clients daily and thus must be humble enough to listen and learn from each of them.

  • Assessment

Clients come to counseling with issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, relationship issues, and often significant mental health issues. Providing a clear and knowledgeable assessment is the first step in helping a client look at those issues and provide a framework for change. 

  • Client Engagement

In addition to the use of empathy and active listening, the counselor can utilize a myriad of tools such as motivational interviewing, use of self, and family genograms (all skills taught at Ottawa University) to fully engage the client in the counseling process. Engagement is essential to client success. If clients are not engaged, they will not invest in the process and likely will just stop showing up for appointments.

  • Developing Goals and Treatment Plans

Again, specific techniques are taught in both the Bachelor’s in Human Services and Master of Arts in Counseling at Ottawa University to help the student develop these important counseling skills. We all need goals to reach and treatment plans are the tools to help clients attain those goals.

  • Recognizing the Effects of Trauma

Ever since tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina and 911, society has recognized that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not reserved for only veterans. All types of trauma such as exposure to abuse or violence can affect individuals, especially children. The ability to look at a client and not ask ‘what is wrong with you?” but “what has happened to you?” is a key factor in treating trauma. Ottawa University employs faculty experienced and specialized in the treatment of trauma in children and adults. 

  • Self-Exploration and Understanding

Everyone comes to any profession with a history of their own including familial issues, cultural biases, and perhaps their own trauma history. Any counselor must recognize those issues not to eliminate them but to acknowledge how they affect their worldview. As a Liberal Arts University, Ottawa encourages students to look within themselves and courageously identify their strengths and challenges in the counseling field.

  • Utilizing Evidence-Based Practice

Counselors rely on research to improve their practice the same as most professionals. It is through sharing insight and findings with different populations that help the field expand its body of knowledge and best practice techniques. Students at Ottawa University are encouraged to engage in research on an ongoing basis and to review the latest information on new interventions with clients. Ottawa encourages lifelong learning.

Choosing a Counseling School

Choosing a counseling school may seem daunting but we are here to make things easy. If you are interested in learning more about developing effective counseling skills so you can start a career in the rewarding field of counseling, please contact an enrollment advisor! We can help you determine if becoming a counselor is the right path for you. Learn more about our Bachelor’s in Human Services and Master of Arts in Counseling degrees.

See Also:

Whys is Cultural Competence so Important

Starting Your Career in Human Services

What Can You Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Human Services


Posted: 08/04/2021 by Mary Alice Grosser, MSW
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