Counselling Microskills: Attending Behaviour
Attending behaviour is a counselling microskill used to encourage clients to talk and show that the counsellor is interested in what’s being said.
When is it used?
Throughout the entire counselling interview. Particularly important in the initial stages of establishing rapport.
Attentive body language (eye contact, leaning forward slightly, encouraging gestures). Eye contact is important and polite (in Western society) when speaking or listening to another person. This does not mean that the counsellor stares at the client, but maintains normal eye contact to show genuine interest in what the client is saying.
Geldard and Geldard (2001) suggest that to assist clients to relax, counsellors can include in their repertoire, the matching of non-verbal behaviour. This skill can take a little time to learn effectively, but it begins with the counsellor sitting in the same position as the client.
For example, if at first the client is sitting on the edge of her chair with her arms outstretched resting on her knees the counsellor can reflect or mirror this position. As the client speaks more, the counsellor can either lean forward, to indicate empathy and understanding, or slowly slide back into the chair to take up a more relaxed sitting position.
If the rapport has begun to be built between client and counsellor, the client is likely to follow suit. This will reduce the anxiety levels for the client.