Counselling Skills II - BPS110

Advanced Counselling Skills Online Course - Learn Counselling Micro Skills

Many people spend a lot of time complaining about things that others do that are beyond their control. We all do this from time to time, but for some it happens a lot. Such clients tend to go over the same things again and again and get nowhere. By constantly complaining about the action or inaction of others, we are likely to become entrenched and eventually frustrated and feel powerless to bring about change. If we turn our attention to what is happening within, we are more likely to be able to deal with what is happening.

Making the most of the session

It is the role of the counsellor to keep the counselling session dynamic so as to make the most of the available time. Most of the heavy emotional material is normally released during an initial 45 minutes of a session, and the client may begin to flag a little after this.

Once the session is drawn to a close the client will need time to go away and digest the material raised in the session. This may mean that another meeting is scheduled for anything from several days to several weeks time.

 It is sometimes necessary to put a client at ease over the duration of individual sessions. Some of them will be anxious that they are taking up too much time or that they are not getting enough time. The counsellor should make it clear that they are in control of the session to allay these concerns.


  100 hours


The course is divided into eight lessons as follows:

1. The Counselling Session:

  •  How Micro-Skills come together.

2. Focus on the Present:

  • Present experiences;
  • Feedback;
  • Transference;
  • Projection;
  • Resistance.

3. Telephone Counselling:

  • Visual v non-visual contact;
  • Preparation;
  • Initial contact;
  • Use of micro-skills;
  • Overall Process;
  • Debriefing;
  • Types of Problem Callers.

4. Dealing with Crises:

  • What is a crisis?
  • Types of crisis;
  • Dangers of Crises;
  • Counsellors Responses and Intervention;
  • Post-Traumatic Stress.

5. Problem-Solving Techniques I, Aggression:

  •  Assisting the Client to Express Anger;
  • Encouraging Change;
  • Role-Play; Externalising Anger.

6. Problem-Solving Techniques II, Depression:

  •  Counselling Depression;
  • Blocked Anger;
  • Referral Practice;
  • Chronic Depression;
  • Setting Goals;
  • Promoting Action.

7. Problem-Solving Techniques III, Grief and Loss:

  •  Loss of Relationships;
  • Assisting the Grieving Client;
  • Stages of Grief.

8. Problem-Solving Techniques IV, Suicide:

  • Ethics;
  • Reasons for Suicide;
  • Perceived Risk;
  • Counselling Strategies;
  • Counselling Skills;
  • Alternative Approach.


  • Demonstrate the application of micro skills to different stages of the counselling process.
  • Role-play the dynamics of the counselling process including such phenomenon as present experiences, feedback, transference, counter-transference, projection and resistance.
  • Demonstrate telephone counselling techniques.
  • Develop appropriate responses to crises, both emotional and practical.
  • Show ways of encouraging the client to deal with aggression.
  • Demonstrate different ways of encouraging the client to cope with depression.
  • Discuss strategies for dealing with grief.
  • Develop different strategies of helping suicidal clients.

Stages of Counselling

There are many different models and theories of counselling. We will now consider the five stage model.

Stage 1: Initial joining

This is the initial joining stage where the client and counsellor meet and the counsellor attempts to put the client at ease and to establish a trusting relationship. At this point the counsellor may alter some of their preconceptions about the client based on their own findings.

Delineating roles

It is sometimes the case that clients expect that the counsellor will be able to conjure up an instant cure. In such cases, it may well be necessary for the counsellor to spell out to the client that they are not an expert who can offer a magical solution to the client’s problems, but that their role is to help the client express their problems and feelings so as to gain a better understanding of themselves. The client needs to understand that it is not the role of the counsellor to offer advice, but rather to enable the client to find their own solutions that are right for them. It may also be necessary to inform the client that finding solutions to problems can take a long time, and that they may need to exercise patience and be prepared to commit to a number of sessions.

Stage 2: Commencing the session (The counsellor focuses on feelings)

Once the initial joining has taken place, it is time for the counsellor to start the working part of the relationship. They might ask the client how they are feeling at that present moment, or what it is that they would like to talk about. Questions such as ‘where would you like to start?’ are good because they immediately focus the client’s attention on responsibility and making choices. This should enhance the client’s awareness of themselves and enable them to get in touch with their anxieties and problems.

Once they have become aware, they should find it easier to talk. If not, the counsellor may need to focus more on getting the client to relax. Clearly some clients will need longer before they feel able to express their innermost feelings.

Applying some structure to the initial session should also help to promote trust between the client and the counsellor. Generally speaking the opening of the session can be viewed as exploring those issues that the client wishes to discuss. Occasionally clients may produce lists of things that they wish to address, or notes about things. If this is the case, it is useful to use such pointers as a guide since they may uncover deeper problems, which can then be explored; if they are of a particularly sensitive nature, the counsellor may choose to return to these issues at a later date.

The counsellor can use such information as a probe to evoke areas for exploration, but will need to decide which areas are of most significance and which are of most urgency in light of the client’s present demeanour. The counsellor should be able to decipher those issues that are of primary importance and which need to be worked on.

Stage 3: Active listening (The counsellor focuses on thoughts)

Early on in the counselling process the counsellor should concentrate mostly on using minimal responses and reflection of content and feeling, so as to keep the process flowing. The client thus learns to feel valued and builds up trust for the counsellor. This normally helps highly distressed clients to get in tune with their feelings and to express them. Sometimes these techniques are suffice to enable a client to reach their own solutions, though often other skills will need to be brought into the session.

Encouraging the client to relax

Initially, a client may well find it easier to talk about other people’s problems, things from the past and things external to themselves, rather than that which is internal and which is the source of their problems. It is important to get the client to focus on their feelings and also to focus on the present, but the counsellor should not pressurise the client into this direction. It is far better to allow them to move at their own pace.

The counsellor needs to exercise patience so as not to frighten the client further inside themselves, which might prevent them from ever disclosing their true feelings. With time they should be able to start to address internal issues. Many clients, particularly those with relationship problems (which are most clients) will take time before they are able to trust the counsellor.

As well as concentrating on listening to the client, it is also important that the counsellor pay attention to the non-verbal cues that the client displays, and also tries to empathise with what the client is feeling. With clients who find it difficult to open up the counsellor will need to rely on their powers of observation to a greater extent.

Questioning, summarising and identifying the problem

As the relationship develops between the client and the counsellor, the client will be able to introduce summarising and then questioning. Only after the problems have been identified is the counsellor ready for the next step, which is promoting attitude change in the client. To ensure that the counsellor and client understand each other, and agree on the main issues and problem, the counsellor may draw on other micro-skills such as re-framing, normalising, challenging self-destructive beliefs and confronting. They may also explore polarities and make use of focusing on the present.

Stage 4: Exploring choices, making changes and planning goals (The counsellor focuses on behaviour)

Once the client has passed through the other stages, or has shown signs of emerging from them, the counsellor may be able to help the client to discover choices available to them and to begin to make plans for change. At this point the client should begin to realize that everything is not all doom and gloom and that there is hope for the future. Again, the counsellor should exercise patience and not force the client into choices, but rather just make them aware that they have them. They may incorporate other techniques such as brainstorming in order to assist the client to realise that they have many choices.

The counsellor can steer the client in the direction of goals that are realistic and yet challenging. The counsellor can also help the client to find incentives that will keep the client on course to their goals.

Stage 5: Ending the counselling session

To close the session, it is effective to summarise the important points that have come to light. The client may not necessarily feel happy when they leave the session; after all, they have just revealed and discussed a lot of deep-felt emotions. This is certain to happen if the counsellor has helped the client to explore areas that they were previously unable to explore.

The client will need time to go away and think over what they have discussed in order to try and understand it. If, however, the counsellor suspects that the client is likely to go away and engage in any type of behaviour that may be a threat either to themselves or to anyone else, then intervention will be necessary.

When working within a set time frame, the counsellor will need to prepare for the end of the session as it gets nearer. They will do this by assessing the session, but it is normally around ten minutes before the end of the session. This allows the client to discuss any issues that they may not have already discussed. These can then be explored briefly in those ten minutes or the counsellor will suggest they save them until the next session.

The counsellor must learn the best time to close the session in different circumstances. Typically sessions last around one hour. This is not always a strict rule, as sometimes a session may go beyond this. Or at other times the counsellor may feel that there is nothing to gain by continuing a session. The counsellor should therefore tailor the sessions to the individual needs of the client. However, the counsellor should bear in mind that by extending a session, another client may be kept waiting. This may increase that person’s anxieties. So it is advisable to allow a gap of around 15 minutes between sessions to allow time for this, or to complete notes and so on. Sometimes, the counsellor may feel the need to debrief after a session, before moving on to the next client. 


  • Identify clearly the stages in the counselling process.

  •  Explain how a counsellor might encourage the client to relax in the first session.

  • Demonstrate at what stage the counsellor should bring in micro-skills other than those of minimal responses and reflection of content and feeling.

  • Demonstrate at what stage the counsellor should focus attention on the client’s thoughts and why.

  • Demonstrate control techniques in conversation, in a role play.

  • Correlate certain types of non-visual cues with feelings in a case study.

  • Show how a counsellor could assist a client to consider the present and how this could facilitate the counselling process.

  • Demonstrate appropriate use of feedback in the counselling situation.

  • Demonstrate inappropriate use of feedback in the counselling situation. 

  • Distinguish between transference and counter-transference. 

  • Demonstrate telephone counselling techniques in a role play.

  • Describe how to deal with a distressed client (male/female) through telephone counselling.

  • Show how to terminate a telephone counselling session.

  • Explain the main advantages of telephone counselling.

  • Describe techniques to effectively deal with nuisance callers in telephone counselling 

  • Evaluate how a crisis was managed by a person, in a case study.

  • Outline the main crisis categories. 

  • Demonstrate different practical responses that might be applied to a crisis.

  • Show when it is appropriate for a counsellor to conclude crisis counselling. 

  • Analyse an aggressive/violent outburst (physical/mental) by an individual; in a case study.

  • Explain an aggressive/violent outburst (physical/mental) by an individual; in a case study.

  • Demonstrate how a counsellor might encourage a client to appropriately express their anger.

  • Explain why it is important that clients become aware of the physiological effects of anger.

  • Identify the origin of depression in a case study.

  • Explain the origin of depression in a case study.

  • Explain the relationship between depression and blocked anger.

  • Demonstrate how a counsellor could encourage a client to explore their anger

  • Identify risks involved in dealing with someone with chronic depression.

  • Explain the benefits of goal-setting to the counselling process.

  • Identify when depressed clients should be referred on to other professionals.

  • Evaluate the grieving process in a case study.

  • Compare the grieving process in a case study, with the 7 classic stages of grieving.

  • Determine which stage of grieving was most difficult in a case study.

  • Explain the significance of denial in the grieving process. 

  • Demonstrate how a counsellor could combat feelings of denial in grieving.

  • Explain why it is important for both the client and the counsellor to understand the grieving process.

  • Research into suicide, to determine attitudes, information and support services available in the student’s country.

  • Discuss a variety of different people’s views on suicide.

  • Describe high risk factors to be looked for when assessing the likelihood of a person committing suicide.

  • Demonstrate alternative strategies that a counsellor might use to become more aware of a depressed client’s risk of suicide.

  • Explain how a counsellor might learn to challenge their own irrational beliefs in order to help a suicidal client.

  • Compare working with and working in opposition to a client.


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