Active listening and the related techniques of clarification, reflection, paraphrasing and summarizing are among the techniques most basic to the counseling relationship. Active listening requires the counselor to fully engage with the client by listening for the meaning of what the client is saying, speaking only to ensure that he understands what he hears. Clarifying questions provide the means for ensuring understanding and also provide an opportunity for the client to further explain and explore a topic.
Reflection is a technique through which the counselor restates the client's message by reflecting the feelings within the message. Reflection provides an opportunity for the client to acknowledge and confront the feelings behind the spoken words. When the counselor paraphrases or repeats back what the client is saying, but in different words and blended with the counselor's understanding, the intent is to enable the client to focus on and process more clearly the meaning of what he has said. When summarizing, the counselor reviews the key points of what the client has said during the counseling session, enabling the counselor and client together to identify themes and review progress.
A basic consideration in active listening is body language, such as facial expressions and the placement of arms and legs. The counselor must consider what his own body language what it conveys to the client, as well as the client's body language. Arms crossed on the chest, the avoidance of eye contact or twisting away from the counselor convey significant information. The arrangement of furniture, lighting, temperature and other elements of the counseling space are also basic counseling considerations that can directly impact a client's sense of safety and foster or impede the building of trust.