The Importance of Strong Communication Skills in Counseling


As a counselor, you may think of yourself as a mental health professional, but you are first and foremost a professional communicator. For this reason, from the moment you begin your online M.S. in clinical mental health counseling to the moment you graduate and start your practice, you’ll want to continually search for additional info both about your field and about strong communication skills that can help further your career. Building up your communication skills while you are still in school will prepare you to hit the ground running when you’re in the workforce.

Communication Skills in Counseling

Speaking Skills

As a counselor, you will be in conversations all day long. One day, you may meet in team-consultation groups with other health professionals. The next, you may see one client after another all day long. And the following day, you may talk with loved ones, partners or parents as a part of the counseling progress. The following tips can help:

  • Listen more than you speak. Listening can answer many questions you have. As well, when the speaker feels fully heard they are more likely to listen to you.
  • Repeat the essence of the speaker’s statement back to them to ensure comprehension. Whether you are sure you understand the speaker’s point or not, it is respectful and reassuring to repeatback his or herpoint to ensure you’ve fully understood.
  • Choose your words carefully. Some people react strongly to certain words, while those same words may not bother you at all. Choosing neutral words can be the best strategy, especially when discussing sensitive or painful issues.
  • Refrain from interrupting the speaker.You will often be surprised by what you learn if you hold back and allow the speaker to finish his or herthought uninterrupted.

Writing Skills

You will use writing for many purposes, from taking notes during sessions to compiling those notes into the patient’s chart after the session ends. You may also do research and present the results in journals or white papers or collaborate on presentations with colleagues.

  • Follow your GPS: grammar, punctuation and spelling. Computers have all kinds of tools installed that can keep your communications professional. Make good use of them.
  • Less is more. If you have a tendency to be “wordy” (using many words when few will do or long words when short words are effective) then this is an area you want to pay close attention to.
  • A word about handwriting. When making notes in a patient’s chart in particular, if your handwriting is not easy to read,typeup your notes on a computer instead. You don’t want to run into trouble later trying to read your writing whenmaking recommendations about a patient’s care.

Training Skills

You will be required to amass a certain number of continuing education hours each year to keep your counseling license current. As such, you may also find you are asked to present trainings or workshops to help other counselors learn from your expertise and obtain their required counseling hours. Training is a very specific form of communication that involves setting out clear and organized objectives and ensuring that those objectives are met by the end of the session bygatheringfeedback from the attendees.

Conflict Resolution Skills

Finally, you will undoubtedly encounter conflict. Understanding how your strong communication skills can support you in easing and resolving conflict can make short work of potential hot-button situations.

  • Recognize the four types of conflict. Intrapersonal, interpersonal, intragroup and intergroup conflict all describe different ways that people find themselves in conflict.
  • Learn how to match the resolution technique to the situation. Whether you use avoidance, control, collaboration, compromise, accommodation or another approach will depend on the conflict as best you understand it.

By developing strong communication skills right from the start, you will begin your career from a position of strength that will set you up for a lifetime of career success and satisfaction as a professional counselor.

About the Author: Mark Harvey is a clinical counseling candidate who is currently fulfilling his licensure hours. He plans to specialize in counseling research and is taking extra communications classes to further his career goals.

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Category: Career Counseling

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