5 Skills Every Effective Counselor Should Possess and Develop
Being a career and college counselor can be a very rewarding profession and one that can be measured by revenue.
How much revenue, you may ask?
According to IBIS World, the job and career counseling industry is predicted to exceed $15.2 billion in 2019.
As more students enroll in colleges and universities, they are more likely to receive job training and career counseling, which may bring about a potential for substantial growth in the industry.
But it’s not a job that just anyone can do. Being a counselor requires certain core skills, some that you learn during your education and some that are developed as you continue to grow your practice.
To put it another way…
Honing a solid set of essential skills makes for an effective, successful counselor that can help guide students on their paths to success.
This post will shed light on the skills that counselors should possess and develop. Keep reading or jump to a relevant section below:
- What is a Career and College Counselor?
- How to Become a Career and College Counselor
- Effective Counselor Skills To Possess and Develop
- How to Apply These Counselor Skills
As a service that aims to provide coaching, advice, and counseling for clients, career counselors help students and people of all ages to make career-based decisions and set goals for their career.
The role of career development counseling is to provide guidance as people organize their thoughts and feelings about their career options, helping them focus on what they need to do to achieve their career goals.
The aim is to help people effectively analyze themselves and empower them to be confident in their decision making-abilities and make the best career — and life — decisions for their future.
Career counselors can work everywhere from colleges and high schools to private practice, career centers, and employment agencies.
What exactly does it take to become a career and college counselor?
For starters, you need to reach a certain level of education.
When it comes to education, a career development counselor is generally required to hold a master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis on career development coursework. Before they receive their degree, counselors are often required to complete supervised fieldwork in an internship or other settings.
There are also credentials that need to be earned.
If you work in a school, you must complete credentials mandated by the state, which usually translates to holding a master’s degree in school counseling, or in a related field. And according to the National Board of Certified Counselors, some positions may also require that you get licensed, which requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience.
Educational skills put aside, there are also some other very important skills that every counselor should possess and develop to achieve a high level of success with their clients and their practice.
The definition of “empathy” is the “experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from his or her point of view, rather than from one’s own.”
It’s not sympathy, but rather that you can show your understanding of your clients’ feelings surrounding an experience.
A good counselor will be emotionally attuned to individuals’ needs and can empathize with a wide variety of people. You can better understand your client’s choices and feelings even if, as a counselor, you don’t always agree with them.
In addition, a good counselor can also help that person to identify and articulate their feelings.
This one might seem kind of obvious, but a good counselor has to truly be a good listener — listening to not only what is said, but how it’s said, why it’s being said, and what it means in relation to that particular client.
Because between 80 and 93% of all communication is non-verbal, it’s important that you give your client your undivided attention, making eye contact and showing them you’re listening — and listening with all your senses.
Of course, verbal communication plays a large role in the relationship, and a good counselor can show that they’re listening through the words that they’re using.
Consider doing the following:
- Use words like a simple “yes” or “continue” to show you’re paying attention and encouraging the client to continue.
- Repeat back to the client something important that they just said.
- Reference previous conversations and relate them back to the present situation whenever it’s relevant.
3. Communication and Questioning Skills
In order to achieve success as a counselor, you need to convey confidence and assertiveness as a good communicator. Having good communication skills can put a client at ease, whether that’s through an email or an in-person session.
In addition, they know that some of the best ways to communicate are by asking questions that help you get to know more about the client. The tone of the entire counseling process really depends on the type of questions you ask.
These questions come in two forms.
Closed questions – These can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
Because they don’t encourage the client to further explore their feelings or options, closed questions should generally be avoided.
Open questions – These questions are critical when trying to get information because they require more than a “yes” or “no” answer.
They should be intentional and therapeutic and require the client to reflect and deeper explore their thoughts and goals. A good way to start them off is by using “how” and “what questions.”
Here are some examples of how you can convert closed questions to open-ended ones.
4. Critical Thinking
The best counselors can detect what’s really going on under the surface and use strong critical thinking skills when working with clients and developing treatment plans or career goals.
You should constantly be educating yourself to better your skills and stay up-to-date on research trends, exploring a variety of alternative options.
Counselors who can create effective plans that help people try several different proven strategies are much more likely to achieve success with their clients. And if you can’t use logic and ask the tough questions, you might miss out on an important behavioral explanation, misguide a client, or make a wrong recommendation.
According to Gerald Juhnke, professor of counseling at the University of Texas at San Antonio, in an interview with “Counseling Today,” being flexible is one of the most important attributes of a professional counselor.
This means you can adapt and change the way you respond to meet your clients’ needs.
Or, when your clients require a different approach or perspective, you don’t stay rigid and stick to a predetermined treatment path.
Every client that a counselor works with will have a different background, experience, and engagement in the therapeutic relationship. One client may have no work experience at all while the next will have worked for decades, so career counselors must be able to adapt their services to assist with a variety of career-related issues.
It’s critical that the counselor is able to shift perspective based on what’s going on with each specific client at any time.
An effective career counselor will employ all of the skills above in a way that makes the process more comfortable and effective for their clients. That process includes:
Opening — Considered the most important part of the interaction, this is where the counselor sets the tone for the relationship with clear communication and gets to know the client, and vice versa.
Exploring Client Understanding — Using empathy and listening skills, this step explores the client’s past, their current motivation, and future goals and expectations.
Understanding — Here is where the counselor can demonstrate understanding by using verbal and nonverbal cues, as well as empathy and questioning about where the client is coming from.
Intervention — Through critical thinking and flexibility, the counselor can help the client decide on the appropriate counseling techniques that will encourage growth and a solid base for future decisions.
Empowerment — At this stage, the counselor employs questioning and strong communication skills to empower the client to make well-informed career decisions for themselves.
Having the Right Counselor Skills is an Absolute Must
Counseling is about creating strong relationships with your clients in a way that empowers them to make good decisions about their future.
By employing the basic counseling skills up above and working through the use of intentional counseling processes, you can help to guide your clients as they work towards their goals — both in their careers and their life.
Do You Have a Counseling Business?
If you own or run a counseling business, then you know how important first impressions are. One of the things you can do to kick off your client relationships on the right foot is to provide a smooth appointment booking process so they can get on your books efficiently.
Genbook lets you do just that. Our all-in-one appointment scheduling solution makes it easy for your clients to book appointments online, so you and your team can focus on serving them better.
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