In this post we summarise the following eight fundamental skills that alone or together can help a client to access their deepest thoughts or clarify their future dreams:

  1. Attending Behaviour
  2. Questioning
  3. Responding
  4. Noting and Reflecting
  5. Client Observation
  6. Confrontation
  7. Focusing
  8. Influencing

Attending Behaviour

Attending behaviours encourage clients to talk and show that the counsellor is interested in what’s being said.

When it’s used: Throughout the entire counselling interview. Particularly important in the initial stages of establishing rapport.

Examples: Attentive body language (eye contact, leaning forward slightly, encouraging gestures).


Effective questioning helps guide the counselling conversation and may assist in enriching the client’s story.

When it’s used: Questioning is useful in the information gathering stage of the interview. It can however be an important skill to use throughout the entire process.

Examples: “What brings you to mediation today?” “How does that make you feel?”


Accurate Responding allows the counsellor to confirm with the client that they are being heard correctly.

When it’s used: Responding is useful throughout all stages of a counselling interview. It helps the counsellor to clarify and encourage clients’ stories. This is also a great skill to teach clients when responding to each other in mediation.

Examples: “Let me see if I’ve got this right. You want to go back to full time study but are worried about your financial commitments?”

Noting and Reflecting

Noting and reflecting is used to bring out underlying feelings.

When it’s used: Noting and reflecting can assist in adding the emotional dimension to the client’s story, so is often used in the interview stages of gathering information and exploring alternatives. Another great skill to teach clients in the process.

Examples: “You feel disappointed because your mother didn’t call you on your birthday.”

Client Observation

Skilled client observation allows the counsellor to identify discrepancies or incongruities in the client’s or their own communication.

When it’s used: Observation is a skill that is utilised throughout the entire counselling interviews.

Examples: Observing body language, tone of voice and facial expressions.


Confrontation is a skill that can assist clients to increase their self-awareness. It can be used to highlight discrepancies that clients have previously been unaware of.

When it’s used: Confrontation is often used when the counsellor observes mixed messages or incongruities in the client’s words, behaviours, feelings or thoughts. Confrontation should only be used after rapport has been developed between client and counsellor.

Examples: “You say you would like to do further study but you haven’t contacted the training institution.”


Focusing enables a counsellor to direct client’s conversational flow into certain areas.

When it’s used: Focusing is a skill that is relevant to all stages of a counselling interview. This skill however should be used sparingly.

Examples: 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.


Influencing may facilitate change in the way a client chooses to think or act.

When it’s used: Influencing is generally used when the client is exploring alternative ways of thinking or behaving.

Examples: A counsellor notices the conflict between two parties that have children together. The counsellor discusses the possible long and short term consequences of their conflict on their children.