Principles of Counseling

Counseling is aimed at empowering a client. The general goal is to lead an individual client or group to self-emancipation in relation to a felt problem. At some stage in the process, the client should attain insight and understanding of oneself, achieve better self-awareness and look at oneself with increased self-acceptance and appreciation, and be able to manage oneself positively. Client empowerment means that they develop skills and abilities that require self-management and improved motivation toward actions that are good for one’s self and develop a positive outlook toward the past leading to some sense of closure and attainment of relative inner and outer harmony resulting to improvement in relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and others. 

The scope of counseling is wide. Essentially, it involves application of some psychological theories and recognized communication skills. It does not deal with clinical cases such as mental illness. It is a professional relationship that requires an eventual closure and termination of the counselee-counselor relationship.

The principles of counseling can be found in the basic process of counseling since they govern each and every step: developing trust; exploring problem areas; helping to set goals; empowering into action; helping to maintain change; and agreeing when to end (Velleman 2001). Counselors are to set aside their own value system in order to empathize with their clients. Since the objective of counseling is to provide support in dealing with issues of concern, counseling is effective when it is performed with clear objectives that include proper degree of advice, reassurance, release of emotional tension, clarified thinking, and reorientation. Counselors. must try to keep this principle in mind at all times in order to be effective. 


Counseling may involve advice-giving as one of the several functions that counselors perform. When this is done, the requirement is that a counselor makes judgments about a counselee’s problems and lays out options for a course of action. Advice-giving has to avoid breeding a relationship in which the counselee feels inferior and emotionally dependent on the counselor. 


 Counseling involves providing clients with reassurance, which is a way of giving them courage to face a problem or confidence that they are pursuing a suitable course of action. Reassurance is a valuable principle because it can bring about a sense of relief that may empower a client to function normally again. 

Release of emotional tension.

Counseling provides clients the opportunity to get emotional release from their pent-up frustrations and other personal issues. Counseling experience shows that as persons begin to explain their concerns to a sympathetic listener, their tensions begin to subside. They become more relaxed and tend to become more coherent and rational. The release of tensions helps remove mental blocks by providing a solution to the problem. 

Clarified thinking. 

Clarified thinking tends to take place while the counselor and counselee are talking and therefore becomes a logical emotional release. As this relationship goes on, other self-empowering results may take place later as a result of developments during the counseling relationship. Clarified thinking encourages a client to accept responsibility for problems and to be more realistic in solving them. 


Reorientation involves a change in the client’s emotional self through a change in basic goals and aspirations. This requires a revision of the client’s level of aspiration to bring it more in line with actual and realistic attainment. It enables clients to recognize and accept their own limitations. The counselor’s job is to recognize those in need of reorientation and facilitate appropriate interventions. 

Listening skills.

Listening attentively to clients is the counselor’s attempt to understand both the content of the clients’ problem as they see it, and the emotions they are experiencing related to the problem. Counselors do not make interpretations of the client’s problems or offer any premature suggestions as to how to deal with them, or solve the issues presented. Good listening helps counselors to understand the concerns being presented. 


In all circurnstances, clients must be treated with respect, no matter how peculiar, strange, disturbed, weird, or utterly different from the counselor. Without this basic element, successful counseling is impossible. Counselors do-not have to like the client, or their values, or their behavior, but they have to put their personal feelings aside and treat the client with respect.

Empathy and positive regard.

Carl Rogers combined empathy and positive regard as two principles that should go along with respect and effective listening skills. Empathy requires the counselor to listen and understand the feelings and perspective of the client and positive regard is an aspect of respect. For Rogers, clients have to be given both “unconditional positive regard” and be treated with respect.

Clarification, confrontation, and interpretation.

Clarification is an attempt by the counselor to restate what the client is either saying or feeling, so the client may learn something or understand the issue better. Confrontation and interpretation are other more advanced principles used by counselors in their interventions.

Transference and countertransference.

Other advanced principles deal with transference and countertransference. When clients are helped to understand transference reactions, they are empowered to gain understanding of important aspects of their emotional life. Countertransference helps both clients and counselors to understand the emotional and perceptional reactions and how to effectively manage them.