Counselling Microskills: Focusing
Focusing enables a counsellor to direct client’s conversational flow into certain areas. It is a microskill that is relevant to all stages of a counselling interview. This skill however should be used sparingly.
Example: After noticing that a client has mentioned very little about his family, the counsellor, (believing the family is relevant) directs the conversation toward the client’s family.
Ivey and Ivey (2003) have identified seven areas a counsellor can focus on in the counselling session to bring about broader perspectives and potential solutions.
The first is Individual focus, where the counsellor begins the counselling session by focusing totally on the personal aspects of the client; the demographics, history, and the reasons why counselling is sought, from the client. The counsellor will often use the client’s name, to help bring about total focus on that client. For example, “Joan, tell me a little about yourself”. “Joan, are you the oldest daughter in the family?”
The second is; Main theme or problems focus. Attention is given to the reason why the client sought counselling.
Other focus, as no problem is truly isolated, the client will often speak of friends’, colleagues, extended family members and other individuals that are somehow connected with the reason for the client seeking counselling.
Family focus, concerns siblings, parents, children. Flexibility is required in the definition of “Family”, as it can have different meanings to different people, i.e. traditional, single parent, nuclear and/or can include extended family members, or very close friends who are given family titles such as Aunt or Uncle.
Mutuality focus is concerned with how the client reacts to the counsellor, because this could be an indication of how the client develops in relation to other people. It attempts to put the counsellor and client on an equal level, with the counsellor asking: “How can we work together?” “How would you like me to help with this situation at this point?”
Interviewer focus is where the counsellor may disclose information about themselves.
Finally, Cultural/environmental/context focus. The counsellor will understand how a client is influenced by the community/ies in which they grew up, but this can be extended to other issues such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status to gain a greater understanding of the person the client is today.