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Psychological Interviewing Techniques

Psychological interviewing can be difficult for the counselor and client. Although some clients may recognize they need help and are willing to talk about their issues, they may have a hard time finding the words to express themselves. A counselor might also find it difficult to ask the right questions. But by using common language, active listening and reflective statements, both parties can conquer this task.

Common Language

Common language is a technique professional counselors use to get clients to be more comfortable and share their feelings. Counselors refrain from using technical medical terms that distance them from their client and choose, instead, the same words that clients use to express their worries or problems. For example, if a client uses the phrase “jacked up” instead of “troubled” to describe his relationship with his father, the counselor might ask, “What makes that relationship ‘jacked up?'” This creates a sense of understanding or shows that the counselor is making an effort to understand the client at his level.

Active Listening

Active listening is a centerpiece of psychological counseling, as counselors learn more from what their clients say and do rather than constantly interjecting with professional advice. Also, if a counselor shows that she always pays attention the client will be more willing to be forthcoming with information and feelings. Techniques include maintaining soft eye contact, nodding appropriately, and using short phrases like “Oh, wow” and “I see” to express understanding. In addition, a counselor should always avoid appearing as if she is passing judgment through her words or expressions.

Reflective Statements

Making reflective statements is another technique to help the client express more of his true feelings. Typically, the counselor picks a moment to stop and go over some of the thoughts the client has shared. Yet counselors don’t just reflect the words; they reflect the thoughts, as well. For instance, a reflective statement might sound like, “So, what you’re saying is that your mother leaving you at the park and not returning made you feel abandoned.”, provided that “abandoned” is the word the client used. This can also convey a sense of understanding, which can prompt the client to readily answer more questions. Timing is crucial with this technique. It can’t be done after every sentence, or the counselor could risk interrupting an important stream of consciousness or train of thought.


Paul Bright has been writing online since 2006, specializing in topics related to military employment and mental health. He works for a mental health non-profit in Northern California. Bright holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and a Master of Arts in psychology-marriage and family therapy from Brandman University.