To ask or not to ask.
Obviously there are some questions during the counselling session that can help to open up new areas for discussion, to pinpoint an issue or to clarify information.
Questions that invite clients to think or recall information can aid in a client’s journey of self-exploration.
It is important however to be aware and cautious of over-questioning.
Asking too many questions can sometimes send a message to the client that the counsellor is in control.
There are two main types of questions used in counselling: (1) Open and (2) Closed.
Open questions are those that cannot be answered in a few words, they encourage the client to speak and offer an opportunity for the counsellor to gather information about the client and their concerns.
Typically open questions begin with: what, how or could.
- What has brought you here today?
- How did you come to consider this?
- Could you tell me what brings you here today?
How? Most often enables talk about feelings and/or process.
What? Most often lead to facts and information.
When? Most often brings out the timing of the problem, including what preceded and followed it.
Where? Most often enables discussion about the environment and situations.
Why? Most often brings out reasons.
The counsellor does need to take care when asking “why” questions. Why questions can provoke feelings of defensiveness in clients and may encourage clients to feel as though they need to justify themselves in some way.
Closed questions are questions that can be answered with a minimal response (often as little as “yes” or “no”). They can help the counsellor to focus the client or gain very specific information. Such questions begin with: is, are or do.
- Is that your coat?
- Are you living alone?
- Do you enjoy your job?
While questioning techniques can be used positively to draw out and clarify issues relevant to the counselling session, there is also the very real danger of over-using questions or using questioning techniques that can have a negative impact on the session. The wrong types of questioning techniques, at the wrong time, in the hands of an unskilled interviewer or counsellor, can cause unnecessary discomfort and confusion to the client.
Have you experienced being in a counselling session where too many questions were asked, or badly timed?
How do you feel about your own questioning skills when in training?
If you're not in training yet, how about interactions at work?
We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.