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Theory and Practice of Counselling

COUNSELING SKILLS COUNSELORíS NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION:Use of Space

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Theory and Practice of Counseling - PSY632
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Lesson 12
COUNSELING SKILLS
COUNSELOR'S NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION
Counselors also express nonverbal information through eye contact and body movements.
Clients make assumptions about the therapists' kinesics based on their own experience with how they
express themselves nonverbally; they do not usually attempt to understand the unique expression of the
counselor.
Counselor's nonverbal communication is strongly related with building therapeutic relationship.
Nonverbal Pitfalls of the Counselor
 Excessive physical closeness at outset of treatment
The client may feel crowded or overwhelmed; misunderstand the behavior as seductiveness by
the counselor
 Excessive physical distance at outset of treatment
The client may feel rejected or at least not accepted; perceiving the counselor as arrogant or
standoffish
 Distancing body movements or facial expression
Examples of distancing facial expressions are bored look, yawning, lack of consistent eye
contact, etc. Similarly, examples of distancing body movements are crossed arms or legs, chair
moved away, etc. The client may feel judged, rejected, or misunderstood; may perceive the
clinician as judgmental or reactive for personal reasons; may feel unimportant, boring, not
being accepted, not liked; may perceive the counselor as emotionally absent
 Absent/ inconsistent eye contact
The client could have following reactions in response to absent eye content of the counselor:
Feeling ignored, feeling not cared for; perceiving the clinician as shy or insecure; feeling not
attended to, feeling perceived as boring; perceiving the clinician as distracted
 Excessive eye contact
The client could have following reactions: Feeling under scrutiny, feeling uncomfortable and
intruded upon; perceiving the counselor as intrusive.
Creating barriers out of objects (e.g., desk, etc.)
The client could have following reactions if the desk between counselor and client is too big:
Feeling rejected, not feeling accepted, feeling unimportant; perceiving the clinician as aloof
Incongruent facial expressions or gestures
The client could have following reactions: Confusion, feeling misunderstood, feeling placated,
feeling lied to; perceiving the clinician as inconsistent or incongruent
Distracting mannerisms (e.g., twirling hair, playing with an earring, scratching, etc.).
Feeling perceived as boring, not feeling attended to, feeling perceived as uninteresting;
perceiving the clinician as anxious or inattentive
 Excessively loud voice or rapid speech
Feeling bossed around, feeling overwhelmed, being given advice or told what to do; per-
ceiving the clinician as angry or hostile
 Excessively low voice or slowed rate of speech
Feeling insecure about the value of treatment; perceiving the clinician as unsure of self
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Theory and Practice of Counseling - PSY632
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Impatient rate of speech, poor timing (e.g., interrupting client)
Feeling perceived as incompetent, feeling perceived as unimportant, not feeling heard;
perceiving the clinician as incompetent or unempathic.
A Touchy Subject--Touching
Touching a client is very problematic in today's society. Touch appropriately is a major concern for
counselors. It is a powerful way to communicate caring and empathy. It can also be easily misunderstood,
misconstrued, and damaging to the counseling relationship.
Touch closes all distance between two individuals. Although this can be a very human and caring reaction,
reaching out and touching a client can also carry negative consequences. Not all clients appreciate touch and
some may misinterpret it. The best rule of thumb for the beginning clinicians is to refrain from the impulse
to touch, especially early on in the work with a given client. If the clinician does not want to refrain from
touch, the next-best solution is to ask the client if touch is acceptable. If a client indicates any hint of
reticence to this request, the clinician would violate the client's personal boundaries through touch, a
disrespectful and perhaps frightening move.
Skill Development Activity 1
 For the next week, listen carefully to the conversation styles of others.
 Attempt to identify their listening pitfalls. Note the consequences of these pitfalls. Do not share your
insights as the point of this exercise is not to criticize others, but to begin to gain awareness of how
pitfalls manifest. It is easier to begin identification of listening pitfalls in the conversations of others
first, then it will be easier to identify them in your own listening.
Skill Development Activity 2
 Begin to observe yourself in conversations with other people.
 Try to evaluate honestly how you listen.
 Pay attention to whether you have any listening pit-fall that get in the way of open and attentive
hearing.
 As you identify your primary pitfalls, make action plans about how to eliminate them after having
observed others' listening pitfalls.
Use of Space
Two most important aspects of space utilization are distance and position. Observing how clients use
personal and environmental space is often a useful way to better understand them. Distance refers to the
amount of personal space a client appears to require. Some clients need significantly more distance from
the therapist than others in order to feel comfortable in a counseling setting. They may go to great lengths
to move their chairs as far away as possible from the counselor. Other clients may feel most comfortable if
the distance between them and their clinician is at an absolute minimum. Counselors need to be aware of
the client's space needs and should therefore try to accommodate these as much as possible. Difficulty can
arise if the personal space needs of the client and clinician conflict significantly.
Gender and Cultural Differences
Although cultural differences exist that may make the need for personal space somewhat predictable, it is
generally best just to observe the personal-space needs of each client and then attempt to honor and respect
those needs. Gender differences may be observed as well.
Timing
 Timing refers to all time parameters of the session, such as starting and ending on time, as well as the
use of time within sessions, such as the timing of important self-disclosures. Timing is an important
nonverbal means of regulation, that is, of helping client and clinician negotiate who speaks when. If a
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client suddenly stops in mid-sentence and pauses, the timing of this pause suggests that a comment
from the clinician about the last expressed thought is expected. If the clinician makes a statement and
then is silent, without breaking that silence, a clear communication is offered that invites the client to
speak.
Timing is an important nonverbal means of regulation. The timing of certain statements by a client
within the context of the therapy hour can give a counselor hints as to whether the client wants to
discuss the issue. For example, an important self-disclosure a few minutes before the end of a session
may communicate ambivalence on the client's part about whether to discuss this topic. However, it may
also be an attempt to extend the therapy hour beyond the established parameters. The clinician's re-
sponse will have important nonverbal-communication value. If the counselor chooses to extend the
session, the nonverbal communication is that the client can manipulate the clinician easily into getting
extra time. If on the other hand, the clinician holds fast to the therapeutic hour, a clear communication
is made that the counselor has good personal boundaries.
Concepts facilitating Good Nonverbal Communication
Three important concepts facilitate good nonverbal communication and thus therapeutic rapport, namely,
congruence, sensitivity, and synchrony.
Congruence
Congruence refers to the clinicians efforts to keep personal verbal and nonverbal expressions in line with each
other. Achieving congruence between what a counselor says and does is critical to good therapeutic rapport.
An example:
1. Conveyance of comfort: Calm, soothing voice; relaxed posture; open facial expression; saying "Please
make yourself comfortable"
2. Expression of empathy: Nodding; smiling; inviting gestures; open body posture; verbal expression: "What
a frightening experience"
3. Matched kinesics and paralinguistics: congruence in all aspects of expression; appropriate accenting: the
counselor may say to the client: "Yes, I do understand".
Sensitivity (understanding the client's nonverbal communications)
Sensitivity refers to a mental-health-care provider's ability to receive and understand the client's nonverbal
communications. Learning how to interpret the kinesics and paralinguistics of each individual client is a
critical component of sensitivity.
Synchrony (matching a client's lowered voice and lowered rate of speech)
Synchrony refers to the clinician's ability to match or oppose the clients nonverbal expressions as
therapeutically indicated. For example, matching a clients lowered voice and lowered rate of speech when
the client talks about a sad event will help the client feel heard and understood.
Mirroring Nonverbal Behavior
 In a successful smoothly flowing interview, movement symmetry often occurs between counselor and
client. Client pauses in the middle of a sentence, the counselor nods, and the client then finishes the
sentence.
 It is represented by a "passing" of movement back and forth between client and counselor. Both
unconsciously assume the same physical posture as if they are following a programmed script.
 Dissynchronous movement can indicate that the interview is on wrong track. The tool should not be
used manipulatively but to increase awareness and insight.
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Staying on the Topic
 To attend, you must also "listen"
 Example:
Client: I went for shopping this afternoon and I really got anxious. I even wanted to run when I saw a
friend. I was sweating and I felt I couldn't move. I have been in my room until just now.
 Nonattending counselor: Did you get admission in bachelors this year?
 Attending counselor: You say you wanted to run when you saw your friend. Can you describe the situation
in more detail?
Helpful Behaviors: Nonverbal
 Tone of voice similar to the helpee
 Maintains good eye contact
 Occasional head nodding
 Facial animation
 Occasional smiling
 Occasional hand gesturing
 Close physical proximity to the helpee
 Moderate rate of speech
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Table of Contents:
  1. INTRODUCTION:Counseling Journals, Definitions of Counseling
  2. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND COUNSELING & PSYCHOTHERAPY
  3. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 1900-1909:Frank Parson, Psychopathic Hospitals
  4. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:Recent Trends in Counseling
  5. GOALS & ACTIVITIES GOALS OF COUNSELING:Facilitating Behavior Change
  6. ETHICAL & LEGAL ISSUES IN COUNSELING:Development of Codes
  7. ETHICAL & LEGAL ISSUES IN COUNSELING:Keeping Relationships Professional
  8. EFFECTIVE COUNSELOR:Personal Characteristics Model
  9. EFFECTIVE COUNSELOR:Humanism, People Orientation, Intellectual Curiosity
  10. EFFECTIVE COUNSELOR:Cultural Bias in Theory and Practice, Stress and Burnout
  11. COUNSELING SKILLS:Microskills, Body Language & Movement, Paralinguistics
  12. COUNSELING SKILLS COUNSELORíS NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION:Use of Space
  13. COUNSELING SKILLS HINTS TO MAINTAIN CONGRUENCE:
  14. LISTENING & UNDERSTANDING SKILLS:Barriers to an Accepting Attitude
  15. LISTENING & UNDERSTANDING SKILLS:Suggestive Questions,
  16. LISTENING & UNDERSTANDING SKILLS:Tips for Paraphrasing, Summarizing Skills
  17. INFLUENCING SKILLS:Basic Listening Sequence (BLS), Interpretation/ Reframing
  18. FOCUSING & CHALLENGING SKILLS:Focused and Selective Attention, Family focus
  19. COUNSELING PROCESS:Link to the Previous Lecture
  20. COUNSELING PROCESS:The Initial Session, Counselor-initiated, Advice Giving
  21. COUNSELING PROCESS:Transference & Counter-transference
  22. THEORY IN THE PRACTICE OF COUNSELING:Timing of Termination
  23. PSYCHOANALYTIC APPROACHES TO COUNSELING:View of Human Nature
  24. CLASSICAL PSYCHOANALYTIC APPROACH:Psychic Determination, Anxiety
  25. NEO-FREUDIANS:Strengths, Weaknesses, NEO-FREUDIANS, Family Constellation
  26. NEO-FREUDIANS:Task setting, Composition of Personality, The Shadow
  27. NEO-FREUDIANS:Ten Neurotic Needs, Modes of Experiencing
  28. CLIENT-CENTERED APPROACH:Background of his approach, Techniques
  29. GESTALT THERAPY:Fritz Perls, Causes of Human Difficulties
  30. GESTALT THERAPY:Role of the Counselor, Assessment
  31. EXISTENTIAL THERAPY:Rollo May, Role of Counselor, Logotherapy
  32. COGNITIVE APPROACHES TO COUNSELING:Stress-Inoculation Therapy
  33. COGNITIVE APPROACHES TO COUNSELING:Role of the Counselor
  34. TRANSACTIONAL ANALYSIS:Eric Berne, The child ego state, Transactional Analysis
  35. BEHAVIORAL APPROACHES:Respondent Learning, Social Learning Theory
  36. BEHAVIORAL APPROACHES:Use of reinforcers, Maintenance, Extinction
  37. REALITY THERAPY:Role of the Counselor, Strengths, Limitations
  38. GROUPS IN COUNSELING:Major benefits, Traditional & Historical Groups
  39. GROUPS IN COUNSELING:Humanistic Groups, Gestalt Groups
  40. MARRIAGE & FAMILY COUNSELING:Systems Theory, Postwar changes
  41. MARRIAGE & FAMILY COUNSELING:Concepts Related to Circular Causality
  42. CAREER COUNSELING:Situational Approaches, Decision Theory
  43. COMMUNITY COUNSELING & CONSULTING:Community Counseling
  44. DIAGNOSIS & ASSESSMENT:Assessment Techniques, Observation
  45. FINAL OVERVIEW:Ethical issues, Influencing skills, Counseling Approaches