Among counselors who take a three-stage approach to counseling, the three stages are building a relationship, exploring concerns and offering guidance and feedback. These phases generally occur in that order, though some relationship building is often still taking place after the main focus of the counseling has entered stage two or three. Likewise, counselors may bounce back and forth between stages two and three, exploring one concern, offering guidance about that concern and then moving on to the next concern.
Stage one, or the relationship building stage, usually begins with the counselor introducing himself and making the client feel comfortable and welcome. The counselor often chats about himself to give the client some background and perspective. The conversation slowly progresses to the client, and the counselor seeks to get to know the client on a personal level. Once this relationship is established, stage two is entered, and the client begins to reveal his areas of concern to the counselor. Sometimes, the counselor must ask a lot of questions in order to discern these areas of concern. Other times, they are offered more freely by the client. Once the counselor has pin-pointed an issue or concern, stage three is begun. The counselor gives the client advice for addressing the problem. The effectiveness of the session depends not only on the counselor's ability to give good guidance, but also on the client's trust in those recommendations, which is highly dependent on the relationship built during stage one.