Essential Counselling Skills

If you’re thinking of becoming a counsellor, you may be wondering what makes a good counsellor? And what core counselling skills do I need to really help people? We’ll go through the top skills you need to kick start your career and also what training is available.

Core Counselling Skills

  • Active listening 
  • Patience
  • Non-judgemental 
  • Self-awareness
  • Confidentiality 

Active Listening

Active listening is one of the basic counselling skill that’s you’ll need to become a great counsellor or therapist. Hearing the message of a speaker is passive but the latter ensures you understand and comprehend what is being said. It also gives you the opportunity to appropriately comment or answer if needed. 

Actively listening to your clients make them feel supported and it is often the start of building a therapeutic relationship. The client needs to feel as though their issues are being understood and the more confidence they have in your ability to listen, the more they’ll open up to you. 

Active listening techniques can include not only building trust and rapport with the client but also demonstrating concern. It requires you to respond to your client with confirmation and paraphrasing that shows you’re engaging in the conversation. The type of questions asked when actively listening is likely to be open-ended questions that seek further clarification from the client. There are also nonverbal ways to show you’re engaging such as sustaining eye contact, nodding and withholding appropriate posture. If the individual feels as though you’re giving them your full attention, they’re more likely to really see how much you care for their wellbeing. Practising this skill will take your communication skills to the next level.


Each individual will take different lengths of time to open up and get to a point where they’re ready to accept change. The time at which they’re ready to make positive changes or come up with their own solutions will be heavily dependant on the type of issues they face. Long-lasting and deep routed issues will need more time than others and the steps towards set goals may be much smaller. A counsellor must be patient and ensure that they do not press an individual sooner than they’re comfortable with. A professional counsellor will be able to judge the point at which the patient is ready to move on in the process. Mental health is, of course, a delicate topic for most and patience is an effective way to approach talking about it openly. 

Non-Judgemental Approach 

Counsellors must be able to not pass judgement on any issues the patient shares. Counselling sessions are meant to be a place where people can feel comfortable expressing any issues to your undivided attention. The counselling relationship will only flourish if the individual feels as though they’re in a safe environment. As humans, we naturally have opinions and feelings about situations that the individual may share, but these must be put aside. Non-judgemental conversations often rely on listening skills and open-ended questions that encourage them to talk further, or dive deeper into the experience. Counsellors or psychotherapists must approach the situation with the individual’s mental health at the focus.

It’s important to mention that even when we don’t communicate our opinions or how we feel about situations, sometimes our body language can. Some individuals may say something shocking to test your responsiveness to the situation before they explore the issue further with you. Counselling approaches all situations from a non-judgemental and professional approach.

Self Awareness 

As many counselling sessions cover intense and sometimes upsetting situations, it’s important for the counsellor to be fully self-aware. Having the ability to self-reflect enables a counsellor to identify and develop personal awareness. Self-awareness also helps counsellors to remain emotionally detached from the relationship between themselves and the client. Being self-aware is also crucial for the professional development of themselves as well as the personal development of the individuals they help.


Patient confidentiality means you must maintaining private information about a client. Counsellors must ensure that no unauthorised person has access to any information about the people that visit their clinic. A counsellor or psychotherapist may ask the patient’s for consent before discussing any disclosed matter with other counsellors or those above them in authority. The only time confidentiality may not be withheld is if a counsellor believes that the client may be a danger to themselves or other people.

Counselling Training

You don’t need a degree to put your use of counselling skills to practise. 

There are many training providers that offer various options at entry-level. There are also options for further training to support qualification, professional development and career progression in counselling. You can also become a specialist in a number of different areas such as young people, trauma, children or marriage counselling.

The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) recommend that you do a three-step process which includes:

  1.  An introductory course to counselling
  2. First degrees in related subject areas such as social work or social care, nursing or psychology.
  3. A higher-level qualification such as a Masters courses accredited by BACP

Coronavirus Update: We are still open

A few therapists are continuing to see clients face-to-face, and most are working from home offering Skype/Zoom-type sessions or telephone sessions. Please contact us if you have any questions.