Techniques in Questioning the Client in Counseling
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2008, over 600,000 counselors were employed throughout the United States. Counselors perform a variety of functions depending on their specialty. Assessments, individual sessions and group therapy sessions are just some of the many ways in which they interact with clients. During a session with a client, the effective counselor must use different questioning techniques to address the client’s main issues.
Using open-ended questions during a counseling session encourages a client to provide more information to the counselor. Open-ended questions allow the client to only respond in complete sentences. When answering in an open-ended question format, clients will generally disclose deeper information that includes feelings, thoughts, attitudes and understanding of the subject being discussed. These questions can help the therapist and client work through a treatment plan by discovering any flawed beliefs or unresolved feelings.
Paraphrasing is a counseling technique that allows a therapist to summarize a client’s statement to demonstrate that she was actively listening. As a questioning technique, paraphrasing can be extremely effective as it gives the client an opportunity to clarify any information that may have been missed by the therapist. Paraphrasing also encourages clients to expand on any previous statements as it allows them to reflect on information they have relayed and add to it if necessary.
Close-ended questions should typically be discouraged during a therapy session, as they do not allow a client to expand on statements or provide deeper information about themselves. Close-ended questions can be useful to clients that are experiencing loose associations. Loose associations occur when a client cannot logically connect one thought to the next. Close-ended questions can therefore act as a great therapeutic tool, as they bring the client back to the present and reduce the chance of responding with loose association.
The Miracle Question
The miracle question is a solution-focused therapy technique that allows a client to discuss with the counselor how they envision the future. Solution-focused therapy, or brief therapy, allows the client and counselor to focus on what achievements they want to make in therapy rather than the problems that exist. The miracle question asks clients what would be different if they woke up in the morning and all of their problems had disappeared. This questioning technique helps motivate clients and begin working with the counselor to meet treatment plan goals during the therapeutic process.
Quentin Shires has been writing since 2003, covering topics such as safety issues, travel and counseling. Shires holds a Master of Science in mental health counseling from Nova Southeastern University and is working toward his Ph.D. in human behavior from Capella University.