Describe processes for initiating, maintaining, developing and conducting a counselling relationship

Length: 1840 words

Counselling is a process that enables a person to sort out issues and reach decisions affecting their life. Often counselling is sought out at times of change or crisis, however, as counselling can also help us at anytime of our life. Counselling involves talking with a person in a way that helps that person solve a problem or helps create conditions that will cause the person to understand and improve their behaviour, character, values or life circumstances.

Every counsellor should consult the word SOLER, as this will make sure that the counselling room is prepared and that the session will be successful.

* S – Square

* O – Open

* L – Leaning Forward

* E – Eye Contact

* R – Relaxed

Initiating a Relationship

Before the start of any counselling session, the counsellor needs to prepare their counselling room. The room should be comfortable temperature, make sure seating arrangements are appropriate – chairs should be at a 45% angle as this is the best way to observe body language without creating a confrontational effect. The room should be decorated in light – relaxing colours, the room shouldn’t be painted red or black. There should be no physical barriers between the you and client, for example, desks,

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high tables, removing this furniture will make the counselling session more formal and make the client more relaxed. The counsellor should be appropriately dressed in smart causal clothes, a counsellor should not be dressed in scruffy clothes as this will look to the client that they are not interested and it is unprofessional.

When a session starts, you should start by introducing yourself, engage in small talk, for example ‘how’s the weather? Any trouble getting here? As this will help the client relax. Offer the client a drink, tea or coffee or water, this will help the client speak more clearly and relaxes them more. Then the counsellor will explain how long this session will last for, how much the session will cost and then the counsellor and client will agree a time period of counselling sessions – this is called contracting. The counsellor may wish to keep seeing the client depending on their situation. The counsellor will also mention that if they feel that they are unable to treat the client then the counsellor will refer them to another counsellor.

Confidentiality is extremely important in counselling – counsellors should explain that if the client has broken the law or intends to break the law or intends to harm themselves or others that you as the counsellor will be obliged to inform the police, otherwise everything will be strictly confidential. This is for the safety of the client, others and even the counsellor; it also keeps a manner of professionalism. When discussing confidentiality the counsellor must show that they are genuine, serious and professional.

Once the introduction, contracting and confidentiality are explained, the counsellor will ask the client firstly, why they are here? What would they like to talk about?

Counsellors need to remember to speak slowly, clearly and in a soft tone and not to patronise, as this is a difficult time for the client, to come speak to a ‘stranger’ about their problems. It also shows a sign of respect and professionalism.

This is an example of what the only the counsellor would say when greeting and explaining various points to the client, I will be explaining various points of this example in italics.

‘Hello john is it? I’m ken, how are you keeping? Take a seat, would you like anything to drink? Any trouble getting down, john?

(In the first opening seconds of the session the counsellor has already asked 4 questions, the counsellor has involved the clients name into the conversation, this is a great skill as when people are asked questions with there name included they start to relax as they start to feel they have known the counsellor for longer than a few seconds)

‘So should we get started? Right, each session lasts up to 1hr, sessions are 1 day a week, the cost is �40 per session and I would like for you to come for four weeks? Is that ok? This time period may be longer but we shall see were WE are in 4 weeks!

(Again the counsellor has asked another question, which is relaxing the client even more, which is vital as relaxing a client at the start can make it easier for them to be open and honest right from the start. The counsellor gets straight to the point with how long sessions will last and the cost of each session. Then the counsellor starts contracting with the client and at the end the client uses the word WE, using this indicates to the client that this is a group and that the counsellor is serious about helping him solve his problem).


For counsellors to maintain a relationship with a client, they need to remember 4 main points:

* Respect

* Genuineness

* Empathy

* Personal values

Respecting a client throughout the session is important regardless of what they have done. Counsellors need to remember that the clients are human, who do make mistakes, however they are still human with the same needs, drives, hopes and fears like everyone else.

Counselling sessions are about being open and honest, not just the client but the counsellor as well. Genuineness is an important skill to learn, as genuineness is the pathway to an open and honest relationship with the client, communicating in a way that will encourage the client to only respond in an open and honest way.

When listening to a client it is vital that you see a situation in the same way as the person you are talking to sees it, this helps as you will understand what that person is going through and you will be able to help them better. This to some people being empathic is tremendously hard as it is difficult for us not to be judgement, that’s why it’s extremely important that a counsellor carries this skill.

As a counsellor it is important to leave your personal values at the door, as your values may not be the same to the client you are counselling. When counselling its best to have a clear mind as you personal values won’t get in the way and you can give honest advice and guidance to the client.

During listening to the client speak about their problems, the counsellor should always keep their body language and non – verbal communication the same through – out.

For example if a client tells the counsellor how they abused their loved one – the counsellor should not break eye-contact unless the counsellor is writing down notes otherwise this will seem to the client that the counsellor is judging them and the counsellors posture should not turn from open to closed as this also gives the client signs of judgement from the counsellor.


Listening and attending – listening is being able to capture and understand the verbal and non-verbal messages to whom you are listening to and attending is simply showing that your listening through your body language.

Listening and attending are the most important things in a counselling session for both the counsellor and client. The client needs to listen to the advice there are being given and the counsellor needs to be able to show their listening and to be able to give advice. Counsellors show they are listening and attending by; keeping quiet and not interrupting the speaker, allow silences this shows that you were listening and that you just need time to prepare your answer, maintaining good eye contact, adopting an open posture, using words like um and ah indicate you are listening and by facing the client shows that your interested in what they have to say.

Questioning the client on aspects of their story gives them the feeling that you were listening and that you just want to fully understand their story. Counsellors must be careful about the questions they ask, they could either be open or closed – if a counsellor is looking for an answer with a lot of information they will ask an open questions like ‘ how does that make you feel’? if they are looking for basic information they will ask questions like ‘how many kids do you have’?

Paraphrasing and Reflection of feelings work together to give a greater sense of understanding and care towards the client. Paraphrasing is simply rewording and shortening of what you have been told. However when you’re trying to reflect feeling you paraphrase the emotions and feelings you detect from the situation. When counsellors use this skill they are trying to dig deeper for emotions and it also shows listening skills and empathy, which is comforting for the client as this is an emotional time for them.


When concluding a session the counsellor should give the client 10 minutes, as this helps give the client time to focus on what’s really important. Once the client has finished speaking go over the main points – themes, feelings and decisions, with them, this helps the make sure they understand and also shows to the client that the counsellor has been listening. The counsellor should conclude with a comment and if they have any ask questions. If appropriate set goals for the client to achieve over the next week, however if you feel their problem is too complicated then refer them to another counsellor.

Summarising is a skill to show you have understood everything your client has said, it also helps the client remember what they have said. It’s a skill of taking an hours session and turning it into around five or six questions. For example summarising a session where the mother has left her husband and kids for a younger man but feels she may have made a mistake – ‘So just to recap, you where married for 10 years, have 2 daughters, you left your husband for a younger man but you think you have made a mistake and you think you want to give your marriage another try for the sake of your kids – is that correct’?

The counsellor has packed the woman’s story into a few sentences, showing the client they have been listening and making the summary short means there is more time for concluding or if the client would like to add anything else.

Adding a final comment should be helpful and give the client belief that they can achieve there goal, ‘After hearing your story, I can see reasons why you left your husband, you now seem sorry for what you have done, however I would like you to think about what you have told me, consider your options – do you still love your husband enough to go back to him? I would like for you to think about this and come back same time next week’. This is called goal setting it gives the client something to think about and also gives the counsellor and client a topic to discuss next week.

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