Successful counselors bring together a diverse set of skills, but perhaps none is as important as being a good listener. That means focusing on a client's words without interrupting or planning a response before the client finishes speaking, according to Colorado Christian University's College of Adult and Graduate Study.
Listening is critical, but it's only one facet of being receptive to a client's needs. A good counselor maintains eye contact and attention while keying in to every verbal and non-verbal cue. Tone of voice, posture and the client's general mood can offer insight into what's going on in the client's mind. At the same time, counselors must be conscious of their own cues; appearing obviously bored won't help build a strong relationship between counselor and client.
Good counselors foster trust between themselves and their clients. They become allies in the struggle to overcome a challenging situation. Only then can clients feel comfortable being open, honest and vulnerable. An effective way to create this trust is to be warm, accepting and nonjudgmental. Counselors must be genuinely empathetic without becoming emotionally involved themselves, a sometimes difficult balancing act but a necessary one.
Client-counselor relationships are confidential by law. Clients reasonably expect that their life dilemmas won't become the stuff of gossip. A good counselor takes this aspect of her work seriously.