9 Core Counselling Skills

Understanding the Essence of the 9 Core Counseling Skills

9 Core Counselling Skills

Skill 1: Active Listening

As the first of the 9 core counselling skills, active listening requires your full attention, showing empathy, reflecting on the client’s story, and noticing non-verbal cues.

Techniques like summarising what’s been said, mirroring feelings, and asking open-ended questions showcase active listening.┬áactive listening┬áwithin a counselling context requires a deep understanding of the spoken and unspoken signals given by the client together with a deep understanding of their emotional state and issues at hand.┬á

Active listening requires your full attention, showing empathy, reflecting on the client’s story, and noticing non-verbal cues. Techniques like summarising what’s been said, mirroring feelings, and asking open-ended questions showcase active listening.

Active listening helps build a strong connection, fosters trust and encourages clients to explore their issues more deeply.

Skill 2: Empathy

In counselling, empathy helps you understand and relate to a client’s emotions and perspectives. It creates a supportive atmosphere, acknowledges personal experiences, and builds trust. Improving empathy involves improving your listening skills, noticing non-verbal cues, and practising self-awareness. Empathy fortifies the bond between counsellor and client and aids personal growth.

Skill 3: Nonverbal Communication


The role of nonverbal communication in the practice of counselling is both profound and essential, as it provides richer context beyond spoken words.

This skill entails decoding and reacting appropriately to nonverbal cues, which offer valuable glimpses into a client’s feelings and lived experiences. By being attuned to changes in body posture, facial expressions, and vocal inflections, counsellors can develop a richer understanding of a client’s emotional state.

Successful interpretation of these nonverbal signals demands a sensitivity towards an individual. Responding effectively to these cues– for instance, by acknowledging them or steering the conversation towards them– Recognising and understanding nonverbal communication can help counsellors better help their clients and build stronger therapy relationships.

Skill 4: Reflection

In the world of counselling, reflection proves to be a crucial skill. It enacts the process of understanding and then restating a client’s emotions, words, or experiences with an aim to promote deeper comprehension and encourage personal introspection.

The role it plays is to not only boost understanding but also lay the grounds for thoughtful introspection.
Reflective remarks validate the experiences of a client, while reflective inquiries encourage more profound exploration.

Reflection might take the form of repeating a client’s expressed feelings or summarising their shared struggles.
When counsellors use the tool of reflection efficiently, they establish an environment rooted in understanding and support.

This, in turn, leads to clients gaining insights and feeling empowered to initiate positive transformations in their lives.

Skill 5: Questioning Techniques

Effective use of questioning techniques is a critical skill in counselling. It empowers counsellors to amass information, delve into clients’ viewpoints, and catalyze self-discovery.

By posing open-ended questions, counsellors can stimulate comprehensive and impactful responses, which cultivates introspection and self-articulation. Conversely, closed-ended questions provoke precise and succinct answers, helping to establish clarity. When employing questioning techniques, it’s essential for counsellors to favour open-ended questions for enhanced exploration, abstain from directing questions, and strive to strike a balance between open-ended and closed-ended queries.

Active listening and smart questioning are essential for understanding your client’s experiences better. Using these skills effectively can help counsellors encourage their clients to reflect, gain important insights, and understand their own problems more clearly.

Skill 6: Summarisation

The skill of summarisation in counselling requires refining and repeating the client’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences to provide a brief overview of their story.

Summarisation is vital in therapy as it helps both the counsellor and client understand the main points discussed. It encourages clients to reflect on their thoughts and feelings, making it easier for them to identify recurring patterns.

Good summarising uses simple language, sticks to the client’s words, and highlights key points. It ensures nothing important is forgotten and guides clients towards significant discoveries and personal growth.

Skill 7: Feedback

In counselling, feedback holds immense importance as it provides guidance, affirmation, and empathetic support to clients. This essential skill significantly aids clients in their journey of personal development and enlightening self-discovery.

Effective feedback is all about commenting on behaviours while balancing praise with constructive criticism. Handing out feedback helpfully can involve the right timing, using “I” statements, and showing respect and empathy.

By giving well-planned feedback, counsellors help clients to become more self-aware, encourage them to change their attitudes in a positive way, and allow them to plot their own course.

Skill 8: Rapport Building

Rapport building is an essential counselling skill that involves creating a trusting and empathic connection with clients. This foundation allows clients to safely navigate and express their feelings and thoughts. 

See the Student Handout on Matching and Mirroring.

Building rapport relies on active listening, creating a non-judgemental atmosphere, and showing empathy. This positive relationship between a counsellor and their client encourages engagement and leads to more effective counselling sessions. Counsellors might face barriers like cultural differences, client resistance or lack of trust. These issues can be managed by listening carefully, acknowledging the client’s experiences, and adapting to their unique needs.

Building successful rapport forms a solid foundation for open conversations, trust, and cooperation, all vital for a productive therapeutic process.

Skill 9: Goal Setting

The practice of goal setting serves as a fundamental cornerstone within the counselling environment, presenting both direction and inspiration for a client’s progression.

This skill exhibits a pronounced influence in fostering favourable alterations and realising the client’s intended outcomes. Authentic goal setting complies with the SMART guidelines – ensuring goals are specific, measurable, capable of being attained, relevant, and confined within a definite timeframe.

In goal setting, counsellors work closely with their clients to create relevant goals that consider their major worries, explore different options, and tackle possible challenges. Including goal setting in counselling helps counsellors inspire clients to strive for their dreams, enhance motivation, and bring about important changes in their lives.

Application of the 9 Core Counselling Skills

The 9 Core Counselling Skills essential counselling skills that make a counsellor effective are active listening, empathy, nonverbal communication, reflection, useful questioning, summarising, constructive feedback, building rapport, and setting goals.

To illustrate their use, consider a situation where a counsellor uses these key skills. The counsellor pays close attention to actively listen, reflects the client’s feelings, and encourages discussion by asking open questions.

These techniques help the client process difficult experiences. Similarly, the counsellor observes and understands nonverbal cues, summarises important points, gives beneficial feedback, forms a supportive therapeutic connection, and works with the client to establish realistic goals.

Effectively using these core skills enables counsellors to offer tailored help and make a significant difference.

NCFE-CACHE-Level-3-Conselling courses-1b
Want to know more about our courses?

Our site is now open for user testing

If you are testing one of our courses and find any issues no matter how small could you please use the feedback form provided on the right edge of your screen to let us know

Online Training Team