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50 Activities for Developing Counseling Skills

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Part of our best-selling 50 Activities series! Comes complete with learning objectives, facilitator guidance, and reproducible materials. raining Objectives: Enable managers to concentrate on the personal views, feelings, and opinions of their staff ´ Encourage person-centered rather than role-centered management ´ Improve interpersonal skills ´ Ensure that organizational goals are achieved. Activities: Provide complete coverage of the four stages of counseling: ´ Rapport and relationship building ´ Challenging problems ´ Problem exploration and understanding ´ Taking action.

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Activity 1 Accessing Your Counseling Style

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1

Accessing Your

Counseling Style

Everyone has a range of communication skills. When these skills are combined, they make up a counseling style. People may have several styles they can adopt, but tend to have a preferred style when interacting with others. Discovering one’s own counseling skills helps explain how we interact with others and establish relationships at work.

MATERIALS

You will need:

Flipchart or overhead projector

Markers

Handouts 1.1 and 1.2 for each participant

TIME

60 to 90 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for self-development and groups of 6 to 18 people

METHOD

1. Introduce Handout 1.1 in the following way:

Much of our time with people is spent in understanding them, and this involves a listening or what is sometimes called a “receiving” mode of communication. The ideal person/manager is someone who provides personal support for friends, coworkers, and staff. This function is called “responsiveness,” and if a person/manager is accessible to people, they will often come to him/her just to be heard. Listening is a key counseling skill and an attribute valued by most people.

 

Activity 2 A Question of Attitude

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2

A Question of

Attitude

The way we communicate with others is often strongly influenced by our attitudes. These attitudes are worth exploring. One of the advantages of doing this is that it helps us to understand what attitudes facilitate or inhibit our relationships with others.

MATERIALS

TIME

60 to 90 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for work with training and counseling groups of six to eight people

METHOD

1. Point out the importance of attitudes in the way we communicate with others. Ask participants to provide those attitudes that facilitate or inhibit effective communication. Ask for examples. Write the participants’ contributions on a flipchart or show on an overhead projector.

Flipchart or overhead projector

Markers

Handout 2.1 for each participant

2. Distribute Handout 2.1 and ask participants to divide into pairs or small subgroups of four to six people.

3. Ask participants to complete Handout 2.1. Have them put a check (�) next to “yes” for those items that they agree with, next to “no” for those items they disagree with, and next to

 

Activity 3 Asking Questions

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3

Asking Questions

Asking questions is a key communication skill. In counseling, the kind of questions that are asked and the way in which they are asked can open up or block progress in our attempts to understand problems and their potential solutions. The use and misuse of open and closed questions reveal the limits and possibilities of using them as counseling skills.

MATERIALS

TIME

45 to 60 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Most suitable for work with pairs or groups of 6 to 12 people

METHOD

1. This assignment has to be carried out in twos or threes.

Participants play the roles of the manager, interviewee, and observer. Distribute copies of Handouts 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3 to participants and ask them to review them for a few minutes.

Flipchart and markers

Handouts 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3 for each participant

2. Set up a role play where the manager encourages the interviewee to talk about a problem.

• Each participant should select a problem that is relevant to

him or her.

• Using open questions, the manager should attempt to gain

 

Activity 4 Body Talk

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4

Body Talk

Our bodies are constantly communicating signals to others—psychologists call this body language. What our body says about us tells other people how we feel about them—for example, what our attitude is and how willing we are to work with other people.

Learning to comprehend the language of body talk opens up new ways to unblock the resources of individuals at work.

MATERIALS

TIME

45 to 60 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for groups of 6 to 12 people or any project requiring counseling skills

METHOD

1. Invite participants to consider how body talk or body language is important in facilitating the counseling process.

Distribute Handout 4.1 and ask participants, “What does body talk tell us? What should we be looking for in body talk scenarios?” Record their responses on the flipchart and extend discussion.

Flipchart

Markers

Handout 4.1 for each participant

2. You should ask the participants to generate not just their views, but actual behaviors—body talk behaviors that can be observed and recorded. If voluntary contributions are not readily forthcoming, trigger a discussion by saying:

 

Activity 5 Challenging the Problems

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5

Challenging the Problems

Managers often need to find appropriate ways of directly challenging or confronting problems with individuals and how they might be resolved.

Managers require language skills for challenging problems and to pinpoint how each problem should be tackled. These specific “challenging skills” will help individuals identify and establish the way to handle their problem(s).

The manager will, in the course of practicing challenging skills, know exactly what skills to use and when to use them. With the use of challenging skills, the manager also assists the employee to declare a statement of intent. It forms the foundation with which the problem will be handled in the future.

MATERIALS

Handouts 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, and 5.4 for each participant

TIME

1 to 2 hours

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for management development and training of groups of 6 to 12 people

METHOD

1. Introduce participants to the idea of confronting problems.

Explain that problems will remain or become worse if they are left unchallenged.

 

Activity 6 Changing Course

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6

Changing Course

Sometimes it is necessary for people to change the course of events in their lives.

However, the way they have been trying to do this often meets with failure. One of the main reasons for this is that they rely too much on old habits. Fresh and alternative lines of action need to be learned from others sharing their experience.

This can be very effective in creating real changes that make a genuine difference to people.

MATERIALS

TIME

Minimum of 45 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for 6 to 18 people

METHOD

1. Explain to the participants that we often try to change the course of events that are important to us and sometimes we are successful. At other times our “solutions” don’t work well enough.

Pens

Handouts 6.1 and 6.2 for each participant

When we are not successful with our tried and proven habitual solutions, we need to break free from them. We need to

“break the mold” and learn new ways of doing things. We need to learn to change course.

Changing course is productive when we can share with others and they can share with us how they successfully dealt with significant problems in their lives and the pitfalls they learned to avoid.

 

Activity 7 Characteristics of Effective Counseling

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7

Characteristics of

Effective Counseling

Identifying the characteristics of effective counseling provides the basis for a clear perspective on it. It highlights who and what makes for good counseling.

MATERIALS

TIME

30 to 45 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for work with self-development in group activities and training of 6 to 24 people

METHOD

1. Provide participants with copies of Handout 7.1 and ask them to provide examples of what they consider are the characteristics of effective counseling. This can be done as one group or in smaller subgroups or pairs. When generating ideas, particularly focus on counseling characteristics.

Effective counseling:

Flipchart and markers

Handout 7.1 for each participant

is skillful and reaches out and makes contact with people. engenders feelings of trust, credibility, and confidence in people. involves sharing with other people. motivates individuals and groups. communicates concern, caring, and respect for individuals or groups. does not mistreat people. respects people. endeavors to understand, rather than “discipline,” the behaviors of people. empowers people. also involves a “systems approach” to reasoning. is able to identify patterns of behavior that are self-defeating and counterproductive. facilitates change from self-defeating and counterproductive behaviors to those patterns that are more personally rewarding and productive.

 

Activity 8 Check it Out

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8

Check it Out

Too often we forge ahead with plans and actions without checking with those who are affected by our behavior. When we check our understanding of issues and problems, we improve rapport with people and confirm we are on the right track.

MATERIALS

TIME

45 to 60 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for groups of 3 to 12 people

METHOD

1. Explain to the participants that this assignment is carried out in groups of three. The roles to adopt in each group are speaker, listener, and observer.

Pens

Handout 8.1 for each participant

2. Distribute copies of Handout 8.1 and ask participants to take a few minutes to prepare a statement on an issue or a problem that they consider to be important. Emphasize that it is crucial that they believe in what they are saying and believe in the statement. Ask participants to make a few notes about their issue or problem and then read it to the group. Participants should be able to deliver their statement in less than one minute.

3. Determine which participant is to go first and ask the speaker to deliver his/her statement to the listener. During this time, the observer looks on and records any pertinent behaviors.

 

Activity 9 Clarify, Clarify, Clarify

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9

Clarify, Clarify, Clarify

In counseling, we need to be as clear as possible. In order to clarify problem situations, we need to establish what is going wrong and what is going right in a person’s life. This enables people to have a balanced view and a perspective against which they can evaluate areas in their lives where they would like to make personal changes.

MATERIALS

TIME

60 to 90 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for individual or group training of 8 to 16 people

METHOD

1. Explain that sometimes a very simple structure can help us facilitate a person’s ability to identify a problem or part of it.

This activity asks participants to identify some of these things in a structured way. They will be able to identify those situations or aspects of their lives that are not going as well as they would like and those situations that they believe they are managing well. Present this together with Handout 9.1.

Explain that it is important right from the beginning for people to acknowledge the successes they have, as well as their problems and shortcomings. With this approach, problems can be more easily handled.

 

Activity 10 Combining Counseling Skills

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10

Combining

Counseling Skills

Showing empathy toward someone while, at the same time, trying to further explore a particular situation tells the person that we really care but we are not going to accept the situation at its face value. Combining empathy with this type of “probing” provides managers with the means to be both caring and critical.

MATERIALS

TIME

60 to 90 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for pairs and small groups; suitable for 6 to 12 people

METHOD

1. The focus of this activity is to learn the skill of replying to a person with empathy and then following up with probing questions. This is called combined empathy-probing.

Flipchart or overhead projector

Markers

Handout 10.1 for each participant

2. Ask participants to decide what kind of information or clarification they require when working with people. They should see this in terms of concrete and specific experiences, behaviors, and perceptions. These should be used to help the individual see the problem situation more clearly. Distribute

 

Activity 11 Constructive Confrontation

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11

Constructive

Confrontation

Managers often have to deal with sensitive and conflicting situations. Being able to confront problems without personalizing them permits us to manage more constructively and helps people overcome their personal and performance difficulties.

MATERIALS

TIME

60 to 90 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for individual counseling and small group training (6 to

16 people)

METHOD

1. Explain to participants that this activity is a set of exercises in which you ask people to examine their own resources that they may not be using to their fullest capacity or those that they may be overlooking altogether. Constructive confrontation is a means to an end and is instrumental; constructive confrontation skills are useful to the degree that they help people develop new perspectives that help to define and clarify problem situations. Moreover, constructive confrontation is not destructive confrontation. It should focus on descriptions rather than accusations.

Flipchart or overhead projector

 

Activity 12 Counseling Empathy Scale

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12

Counseling

Empathy Scale

Successful counseling begins by being able to see the other person’s viewpoint.

But it is more than that. The most effective use of counseling skills is apparent when we can “live in the same skin” as the person receiving counseling. This is called empathy. Being able to know how empathic we are gives an understanding of how deep a level of communication we can achieve with others.

MATERIALS

TIME

45 to 90 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for a group of 6 to 24 in counseling and training and management development

METHOD

1. A scale that is helpful for establishing how people can achieve empathy has been developed. It has been found useful to see counselor empathy at five different levels. The higher the level on the scale, the more empathic understanding we can communicate to others. In doing so, we achieve better communication that helps individuals to discover and use their own resources.

Colored pens

Handout 12.1 for each participant

Distribute Handout 12.1 to participants and ask them to examine it in light of their previous experience.

 

Activity 13 Counseling Goals

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13

Counseling Goals

In counseling, we need to be clear about what we are trying to achieve. Knowing what our objectives are makes it possible to state the goals of counseling, which will provide us with a clear framework of values within which we can conduct counseling.

MATERIALS

TIME

45 to 60 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for small groups of 6 to 16 people training in counseling skills or personal development

METHOD

1. Explore with the participants what it is that counseling seeks to achieve. The following issues can be raised:

Pens

Handout 13.1 for each participant

Before we think about how to accomplish something, we must first clarify what is to be accomplished.

It is important to establish counseling goals.

What do we mean by counseling goals? Suggest the following definition: “A goal is a future event that an individual, group, or organization wants to have occur.”

Counseling goals have three elements:

They are focused clearly on the future.

They are descriptions of events.

They imply a “valuing” position.

 

Activity 14 Cueing into Counseling

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14

Cueing into

Counseling

Many people have different views of what counseling is and is not. Confusion over what the term means can lead to misunderstandings between those who use counseling skills and those who receive counseling. Being able to distinguish between counseling and other forms of communication, such as giving advice or instructing, is fundamental to anyone interested in developing counseling skills.

MATERIALS

TIME

30 to 45 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for small groups, work teams, and people who may think they use or will use counseling skills

METHOD

1. Distribute copies of Handout 14.1 and ask participants,

“What does counseling mean to you?” Record participants’ responses on a flipchart or overhead projector slide titled,

“What we mean by counseling.”

Flipchart or overhead projector

Markers

Handout 14.1 for each participant

2. Then ask what counseling is not and record responses on a flipchart or overhead projector slide titled, “What counseling is not.”

3. Participants then record their responses of what counseling is and is not and make their own notes.

 

Activity 15 Dress Rehearsal

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15

Dress Rehearsal

It is not uncommon in counseling for people to express concern over their inability to manage situations. Carrying out a dress rehearsal helps them prepare for difficulties and overcome problems they anticipate might occur.

MATERIALS

TIME

30 to 45 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for pairs and groups of 8 to 16 people

METHOD

1. Explain to the participants how people often come to a counseling session because they say they are unable to manage specific problems or situations.

Flipchart and markers

Handout 15.1 for each participant

2. Explain that the “dress rehearsal” approach to counseling allows participants to say and do what they think will overcome their difficulties in the future. A dress rehearsal enables participants to practice “getting it right.” It makes it possible for them to write dialogue and edit any new behavior until their situation has improved.

3. Ask participants to give some of the characteristics of a good dress rehearsal. Ask them the question, what makes a good dress rehearsal? If they need prompting, ask them to think of the theater and television to get them started.

 

Activity 16 Encouraging Sensitivity

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16

Encouraging

Sensitivity

Sensitivity to people allows them to be themselves and we can know them as individuals. These individuals often have to be understood so that they can unpack the emotional and mental “baggage” that often interferes with their personal life and undermines their performance at work. Studying cases of people who have problems helps managers assess their level of personal sensitivity to others.

MATERIALS

TIME

60 to 90 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for groups of 6 to 10 people

METHOD

1. Tell participants that being aware of our own sensitivity to others helps us to help them. By helping them they are more able to manage their life and their work.

Flipchart and markers

Handout 16.1 for each participant

2. Tell participants that this activity involves increasing our sensitivity to the signals others are sending when they communicate. How sensitive we are depends on being able to see that each person is an individual with his/her own concerns and problems.

3. Divide participants into groups of four to six. Distribute

 

Activity 17 Finding a Focus

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17

Finding a Focus

It is important for managers to enable those whom they are counseling to “tell their stories.” To be able to say what is really the issue and to speak freely is a fundamental tenet of counseling skills and the counseling process. You should ensure that you cover the need to determine just what issue is of concern. When you have done this, you have successfully practiced focusing skills. It is called focusing because it deals with the choices and issues that are currently of concern to an individual. Focusing is also concerned with the counselor or facilitatormanager being able to use these skills with people to enable them to make significant and successful change. Also, once a problem is chosen for consideration and identified, it needs to be explored concretely to be of further benefit to the individual, his/her team, and the organization.

MATERIALS

TIME

60 to 90 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for groups of 6 to 12 people

METHOD

1. Discuss the following with the participants:

 

Activity 18 For the Record

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18

For the Record

Counseling has many purposes. But one of the main purposes is to know how well a person is doing. We know how well a person is doing by what he/she says about himself/herself, what others say, and our own perception of the person. All of this is further strengthened and is put into perspective when we keep appropriate records. Keeping records helps us provide objective information to balance our subjective impressions of others.

MATERIALS

TIME

15 to 45 minutes

GROUP SIZE

Suitable for groups of 8 to 24 people

METHOD

1. Explain to the participants how important it is to keep records in counseling.

Flipchart and markers

Handouts 18.1 and 18.2 for each participant

2. Ask participants for ideas on typical ways of keeping records, for example files, diaries, calendars, and time organizers. Explain the following to participants:

• These methods give us records of when we should be

doing something and with whom.

• There are many other methods of keeping records. Some

involve recording specific activities, and others require stringent monitoring of where people do things, the duration of activities, and what the payoff is for the person.

 

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