Four Common Skills in Counseling

Elsewhere and across applied social science disciplines, there are four common skills that require studying the curriculum of accumulated scientific knowledge across disciplines; which are skills for communicating, motivating, problem solving, and resolving conflicts.

1. Communication skills.

These include the ability to actively listen, demonstrate understanding, ask appropriate questions, and provide information as needed. Active listening involves listening to the words, the gestures, and’ other body language. It involves listening for what is said and what is not said. It requires listening to content—its meaning and the emotions behind the it. Demonstrating understanding includes responding to what is said by repeating the same words or using other words, stating the meaning of the words, and describing the feelings that accompany the words.

Effective communication means the message you want to communicate is received as you intended it to be received. However, it is common for the intended message to be misunderstood. This happens because people have different ways of saying things or similar statements may have different meanings for some people. Understanding the communication cycle (Sender » Message » Channel » Receiver » Feedback) and the barriers (noise, interruptions, uncomfortable surroundings, stereotyping, message. complexity, misstatements) that can get in the way of effective communication are very important for developing communication skills.

2. Motivational skills.

These skills are the ones that influence a helpee to take action after the helping session or consultation. There is an old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Sometimes, we label students as being ‘hard-headed’ because of their non-compliance with suggestions. But we do not reflect on the why and how come. There are varied theories related to this skill area. Needs, desires, incentives, drive, cognitive dissonance, and other factors have been purported to motivate-behaviors. Recognizing the client’s readiness for action must be considered. Does the client have the necessary knowledge, skills, or ability to perform the necessary tasks to correct the problem area? Are there (attitudinal) concerns interfering with taking action?

3. Problem-solving skills.

These include differentiating between symptoms and the problem, pinpointing probable causes and triggers for the problem, and then generating a range of possible solutions to the actual problem.

4. Conflict resolution skills.

These involve learning about styles of conflict resolution. It also includes recognizing the signs of it and learning the process of conflict resolution. Helping professionals should have the skills to facilitate communication and problem solving between parties that are having a conflict as well as to help them focus on facts rather than personalities or blaming one another. Skills here are necessary in unblocking some barriers that are inevitable to counseling. Skill-building in this area is important.