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Counseling and Interview Techniques

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Interviewing involves the gathering of information over a short period, usually one or two sessions. Counseling is a more intensive and personal process which requires a longer commitment. In spite of these differences, there is considerable overlap. An effective counselor will use both interviewing and counseling techniques as he helps his clients work through their issues.

Active Listening

When you meet with your client, go beyond listening to the content; listen to the whole person. Carefully observe non-verbal cues like gestures, facial expressions and changes in posture. Be aware of any cultural differences and hidden barriers underlying the conversation. Do not agree or disagree with your client. Paraphrase parts of the conversation and let your client know that you have heard him. Every client wants to "hear himself talk."


Learn to read between the lines. When you restate the emotional quality of the client's response, identify the feelings behind them. The feelings are usually stronger and more meaningful than the content. Empathize with his point of view and encourage him to use his feelings as a springboard to action. You could say, "What might you do differently in the future to avoid feeling so angry?" The client must learn how to assemble what he already knows about himself and act on that self-understanding.

Role Playing

You can easily introduce situations that your client will face in the future. It could be a conversation between spouses or a confrontation with a colleague. You can observe and help your client practice what he will say, how to say it best and how to deal with the expected response. You may choose to play the part of the spouse or colleague so that the client can practice her skills. Alternatively, you could play the part of the client in order to model appropriate behaviors.

Creative Imagining

If a session stalls, ask your client to envision a desired outcome. Imagination and visualization tap into the right side of the client's brain, where intuition and dreams float freely. If your client has marital problems, ask him to imagine the perfect date with his spouse. An unemployed client could visualize her ideal career. It may seem that your client is rambling, but he is actually planting the seeds for a new direction and future exploration.

  • "The Career Counselor's Handbook"; Howard Figler & Richard N. Bolles; 1999
  • "Intentional Interviewing and Counseling"; Allen E. Ivey, Mary Bradford Ivey, Carlos P. Zalaquette; 2009

In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio opened a wordsmith business. She has been published in the "Guelph Daily Mercury," "Waterloo Record" and "Winnipeg Free Press". A retired school teacher, Guidoccio has a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and psychology from Laurentian University, a Bachelor of education from the University of Western Ontario and a Career Development Practitioner Diploma from Conestoga College.

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