Active listening is the process by which we communicate to our clients that they are heard and understood. There are three specific micro-skills included in the text that all serve this purpose, included among them are encouraging, paraphrasing, and summarizing. Encouraging can be either verbal or non-verbal, although my personal style is mostly non-verbal. For me, it’s as simple as a head-not or strategically placed “I understand.” Restatements are a form of encouraging that I will definitely need to work on, although it is evident to me that restatement is a valuable skill and one that will most certainly be used often. “Key word encouragers contain one, two, or three words, while restatements are longer.” (Ivey, Ivey, & Zalaquett, 2010, p. 157)
“The goal of paraphrasing is facilitating client exploration and clarification of issues.” (Ivey et al., 2010, p. 158) Paraphrasing represents an opportunity for the therapist to verify that they have heard and understood what the client has said, as well as to focus (or refocus) conversation on a specific element of the dialogue. I well designed paraphrase utilizes key word that were used by the client previously, captures the essence of what they client has communicated, and gives the therapist an opportunity to ‘check out’ and verify that they did in fact understand the dialogue correctly.
Summarizing can be employed at the beginning, the end, or during the course of a topic transition. Summarization is a form of selective attending in which the therapist picks out multiple key points and attempts to restate them as accurately as possible. (Ivey et al., 2010, p. 159) The bottom line is that it is absolutely necessary that we continue to be ‘active participants’ in the conversation and that we attend to the details of said conversation so that we are better able to detect slight movement in mood or affect.
Ivey, A. E., Ivey, M. B., & Zalaquett, C. P. (2010). Intentional interviewing & counseling (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.