They are invitations to share information or an opinion.
By asking a question, we turn the focus onto the listener's needs.
We may of course, genuinely need information before we can fully understand what is being said, but even so, by asking for information, the focus is changed and the speaker may feel interrupted.
Types of Questions.
Knowing the types of questions you use in your counselling practise or your helping/assisting role, is very important.
They are used to get facts, for example - how old are you?
A closed question therefore is when the usual reply is Yes or No. Very occasionally this type of question can be useful in confirming details or gaining commitment, but more detailed information is not usually forthcoming.
Closed questions aren't used in a counselling questions, but you may find that sometimes they pop in.
The drawback with a closed question is that it tends to halt the flow of conversation and more often than not, leads to another questions and of course, control of the subject matter is then with the listener and not the client.
Some examples of closed / poor questions in a counselling setting
Using too many closed questions
* "Shall we talk about the relationship with your mother again today?"
* "Have things improved since the last time we met?"
* "What happened then?"
* "Did you feel angry then?"
* "What is it like ...?"
* "Do you stay at home more when you're depressed?"
* "Did you feel frustrated then?"
Asking more than one question at once
* "Can you tell me more about that? Did you have to take that job?"
Asking Why questions
* "Why aren't you getting along?"
* "Why did you do that?"
"WHY" questions often put people on the spot. They are difficult to answer because we don't always know 'why' we do something or why we don't.
Questions beginning with 'how' or 'could' will provide more room for the client to move around her/his topic or issue.
Open questions have the benefit of helping to gather more information as they create opportunity for you to express fully what you wish to say.
These are more likely to elicit feelings and can leave much more control with the speaker.
A broad open question - "How were things for you at that time?" This invites the speaker to choose where to focus their feelings.
Some Examples or open / good questions in a counselling setting
Relating to beginning a counselling session
* "What could you like to talk about today?"
* "How have things been since the last time we met?"
Helping the client to elaborate
* "Could you tell me more about that?"
* "How did you feel when that happened?"
Helping to elicit examples of specific behaviour so that the counsellor is better able to understand what the client is describing
* "What are you feeling as you tell me this?"
* "How did you feel then?"
In any customer service / front facing role, using open questions can help to develop the relationship with your customer or client. It is very helpful to pay attention to the types of questions you use, whether you're a teacher speaking to a pupil, or parent, a retail assistant helping someone with clothes shopping, a customer service representative on the end of the telephone, or a counsellor with a client. All these skills are transferable.
Are you thinking about training to be a counsellor? Our 10 week Basic Counselling Course starts in July 2016 and registration is open now. Email us to get more information and visit here to read more about it.
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