Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Reflection and Paraphrasing

There is a range of skills counselors can use to contribute to a therapeutic alliance. Both reflecting and paraphrasing are supported by active listening and prove the counselor's attentiveness (Knapp, 2007). I believe all of the micro-skills, especially active listening, enable the most significant part of the counselor's job, which is empathy. Bogner, Horrocks, Lanni Manley, and Denig (2012) refer to empathy as "a deeper comprehension of the subjective world of clients" (p. 3). Because paraphrasing and reflecting are both components, or perhaps symptomatic, of active listening, these also contribute to the ability to empathize with clients.

Bogner et al. (2012) also found that empathy in the therapeutic alliance plays a pivotal role in the clients' ability to resolve problems because of the subjective experience created by the counselor's empathy. I propose that the empathetic relationship removes (for the client) some of the constraints of fear and aloneness created by challenges that may initially appear insurmountable. Once the client is free to think and feel without those constraints, perhaps finding resolve is more readily available.

The bottom line seems to be that micro-skills are fundamental building blocks for counselors. I liken it to revisiting my golf swing: when in doubt, I return to the driving range. As a counselor, the appropriate delivery of micro-skills will always be central to supporting my ability to empathize with my clients, which may, in essence, empower them to find the answers they seek.

Bogner, R. G., Horrocks, S. L., Lanni Manley, E. J., & Denig, S. J. (2012). Educating Counselors: A Constructivist Approach to the Development of Core Counseling Skills. International Journal of Business & Social Science, 3(2), 1-8.

Knapp, H. (2007). Therapeutic communication: Developing professional skills. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

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