Core Counseling Skills for Ministers

Skills for Ministers to Consider: 

Empathy vs. Sympathy

1.   Empathy: “feel with.”
2.  Sympathy: “feel for.”

Be aware of your own feelings.

Learned Skills


1.   Comfortable eye contact.
2.   Attentive body language.
3.   Verbal tracking (staying with the topic/ resisting the urge to change the subject or ask irrelevant questions).
4.   Notice who is doing most of the talking (may be irrelevant for some).

Listening – utilize the Guidelines for Effective Listening resource.

1.   ABC’s of listening.

a.   Listen to words.
b.   Make sure you know actual meaning.
c.   Show them you know (reflect back what you heard them say).

2.   Notice the person’s nonverbal communication.

a.   Facial expressions.
b.   Tears.
c.   Change in voice.

Assess the Stages of Change.

1.    It is important to match your interventions to the person’s stage of change.
2.    They may say they are ready for change; their behavior may show otherwise.


1.    Ask an open question.
2.    Reflect.
3.    Give summary.
4.    Restate client’s thoughts.


1.    Not necessarily condoning.
2.    Acknowledge reality.

Influence (click for Influencing Skills Document)


1.    Not criticism.
2.    Point out inconsistencies.
3.    Point out wrongs, but support.


1.   Reinforce improvement.
2.   Role play.
3.   Give information.

The Helping Process

Step 1: Building rapport.

1.   The first goal is to ensure that the person knows you care.
2.   Sometimes the goal of the first meeting is simply to make enough connection to have a second meeting.
3.   Empathy, warmth, genuineness, and caring are important.

Step 2: Clarify issues and identify goals.

1.    Using listening, leading, supporting, probing.
2.    Take time to glean what the counselee’s goals are.
3.    Find out what he knows (any behavior and feelings).

Step 3: Explore alternatives.

Step 4: Stimulate change.

1.   Teach skills necessary.
2.   Confront.
3.   Make choices.

Step 5: Evaluate results.

Step 6: Termination of the relationship.

1.   Summarize.
2.  Support.
3.  Plan for Future.

Helping People Cope With Crisis.

Make contact.

Reduce anxiety.

Focus on present issues.

Encourage action.

Help with acceptance of situation.

Click for printable document