Core Counseling Skills for Ministers

Counselor Qualities (these qualities are shown not said)

Empathy vs. Sympathy

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

Genuineness (not phony and not excessive, your words and actions need to be consistent)
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 (click for Guidelines for Effective Listening)

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 Stage of Change (click for handout)

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