52 Most Effective Counseling Techniques and Skills For Therapists

The effectiveness of a therapist is determined by how well they can use the various counseling skills and techniques available to provide help to their clients.

Effective therapists understand that their choice of technique is dependent on the individual client and his issue. So they don’t zero down on just a few skills and try to fit every situation into the scope of their skills.

I have highlighted the most used and effective counseling skills and techniques in this post.

Related: What Is Guidance and Counseling? (Overview, Scope, and Types)

22 Best Counseling Techniques


Reinforcement is giving a stimulus or creating an event that increases the future probability of a behavior. It is simply rewarding an individual for a desired behavior so they can do more of it. 

Reinforcement could either be positive (giving pleasant stimulus) or negative (removing unwanted stimulus).


Empathy is an intellectual approach to handling and communicating with clients’ emotions. It is the propensity to respond appropriately and sympathetically to another person’s emotional state.

One of the three fundamental techniques of non-directive counseling is empathy, which entails placing oneself in the client’s shoes and is supported by a sincere interest in and concern for the individual seeking assistance.

Sympathy and empathy are not the same things. Empathy aims to make sure that the client feels welcomed and sees the counseling encounter as kind, and sincere, making the client able to progress psychologically.

Free Association

Free association is a cathartic psychoanalytic technique that encourages patients undergoing psychoanalysis to express themselves freely and without restraint while they recall their memories. It is used to find hidden causes of the client’s issues. It is also called free talking.

Dreams Interpretation

Dream interpretation is a crucial psychoanalytic technique that helps clients uncover the hidden meaning of their dreams. It may also involve a therapist probing their unconscious desires, conflicts, and fantasies.


Counterconditioning is a behavior modification technique for replacing an undesirable behavior with a desirable one. For example, if a client is addicted to alcohol, rather than only eliminating the addiction, the “addiction” is turned into something else like taking fruits.


Shaping is an operant conditioning technique used to strengthen a desired behavior. It is characterized by consistent, contingent, and relevant reinforcements given to the client until the desired behavior or set of behaviors forms. 

Freudian Slips or Slips of Tongue

Parapraxes is another name for a Freudian slip. They are inadvertent comments, silly mistakes, or errors taken to be a client’s buried desires, unconscious attitudes, or hidden inclinations. It is used in the psychoanalytic approach.

Saying things like “I am sad (instead of glad) that you are better” or “my boss is an alcoholic (instead of a workaholic)” are examples. Another example is shaking hands with a coworker during an interview and adding “pleased to beat (instead of meet) you.”

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring entails altering the client’s way of thinking seeking to eliminate certain unhelpful assumptions.

Escape Conditioning

Escape conditioning is a technique in behavioral psychology that teaches the client to develop responses that hinder the occurrence of unwanted behaviors. 

A simple example is the popular “count 1 to 10 when angry before reacting.” Counting is a behavior of calmness and cannot coexist with aggression.


When using the problem-solving and decision-making technique of brainstorming, group members generate a lot of ideas on the spot and later assess them.

No interruptions are made to the person offering ideas during the process, and everyone in the group is free to voice their opinions without worrying about being held accountable. It aims to encourage the group to think more freely and creatively.


Flooding is a behavior modification strategy for easing phobias or anxiety. It entails giving the client repeated or excessive exposure to the dreaded object or circumstance.

That is, exposing clients to the anxiety-inducing scenario either in real life or in their imaginations until it no longer causes fear.

Case Study Conference

Case study conference is a method of training in helping professions such as social work, counseling, medicine, law, and teaching. It involves the presentation of an issue or case to a set of trainees under the guidance of an experienced leader or professional.

Each trainee has the opportunity of contributing ideas on any aspect of the case presented according to his or her knowledge or experience. In the end, everyone involved benefits from the exercise.

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is a cognitive behavior modification technique. It involves the effort to develop or choose among various responses, a proper attitudinal set to obtain desired goals.

It provides a variety of potentially effective response alternatives for dealing with a problematic situation and increases the probability of selecting the most effective response from among the alternatives available.

Systematic Desensitization

Systematic desensitization is a technique in behavioral psychology used to reduce or eliminate anxiety disorders such as interview or examination anxiety or some phobia by exposing the client to the situation and teaching them to relax. Relaxation is a major aspect of this treatment approach.

Token Economy

The token economy is a system of operant conditioning used for behavior therapy that involves rewarding desirable behaviors with tokens that can be exchanged for items or privileges (such as food or free time) and punishing undesirable behaviors (such as destruction or violence) by taking away tokens.

Response Cost

Response cost is a punishment behavior modification technique for checking excessive behavior. It is like paying fines. The client loses a benefit if he or she engages in undesirable behavior. 


Biofeedback is a mind-body technique that involves using electronic visual or auditory feedback to teach people to recognize the physical signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as increased heart rate, body temperature, and muscle tension.

By learning how to control the physical and psychological effects of stress using biofeedback, people can learn how to relax their minds and bodies and better cope with the symptoms of stress.

The goal of biofeedback is to make subtle changes to the body that result in the desired effect. This might include relaxing certain muscles slowing heart rate or reducing feelings of pain 

Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental meditation is a technique for detaching oneself from anxiety and promoting harmony and self-realization through meditation, repetition of a mantra, and other yogic practices.


Psychodrama is a type of psychotherapy in which people express their issues by acting them out in front of others to get more insights into them.

Behaviour Contracting 

Behavioral contracting is an intervention technique in which a client signs an agreement to make certain behavior changes within a specified time, usually with explicitly defined rewards for adherence or success.

Social Drama

Social drama is a psychotherapeutic technique where an entire group acts out their issues to get more insight into them. It is similar to psychodrama except that it deals with problems of the group rather than an individual.


Role-playing is a counseling technique that allows a person with a phobia to practice new behaviors. In a role-playing session, the counselor takes the identity of someone that the person is afraid to confront, such as a parent or employer.

The person then interacts with the counselor, utilizing behaviors that she has learned during therapy. After the role-playing session is complete, a debriefing takes place in which the client and therapist discuss what happened and ways to improve the interaction.

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An effective therapist must be able to ask the right questions to trigger self-understanding in the client and to also understand the client’s needs.


Many clients won’t be self-encouraged even when the decision to come for therapy is theirs. This becomes especially true when they feel forced e.g by a parent or partner.

An effective therapist must know how to stir up the desire of the client and give them renewed energy to be actively involved in resolving their issues.

Active Listening

Active listening is paying attention to the verbal and nonverbal cues the client sends while communicating. The therapist must maintain eye contact and make the client assured that he’s interested in their situation or what they have to say.


Paraphrasing is an important part of active listening. The therapist must relay back to the client in his own words what he understands from what the client has said. This is to ensure that they aren’t misinterpreting the client and also assure them that they are being heard.

Reflection of feelings

Reflection of feelings is similar to paraphrasing only that here the therapist is relaying what he understands of the client’s feelings back to them to be clear about them.

Holding and Touching 

This is providing some form of reassurance to the client by being physically present for them. Of course, the therapist must be careful not to go too far and respect boundaries while getting physical. A simple pat on the back or holding the client’s hand is enough.


After a client has narrated an event to the therapist, an effective therapist should narrate the event in a summarised form, highlighting only key points, back to the client.

Summarizing differs from paraphrasing in that it waits till the end of the narration to give an overview. Paraphrasing can come after a few sentences within the whole gist.

Psychological attending 

Psychological contact is a cardinal aspect of client-centered therapy. The idea is that the therapist understands or flows with the psychological processes going on in the client’s mind.


An effective therapist must know how to cultivate a good relationship flow with the client. This involves making the client feel safe, understood, valued, and not judged and also knowing that someone is genuinely interested in their issues.


Confrontation is an open, honest identification of the client’s self-defeating patterns or manipulations. The counselor shares how those inappropriate behaviors produce negative consequences in interpersonal relationships.

Other Important Skills For Therapists Include

  • Suggestion
  • Restatement
  • Reassurance
  • Silence
  • Feedback
  • Problem-solving
  • Homework
  • Permitting clients to talk 
  • Social skills
  • Human relations skills
  • Conflict resolution
  • Physical attending skills
  • Termination skills 
  • Assertiveness
  • Conversational skills
  • Parent effectiveness skills
  • Stress management skills
  • Goal Setting
  • Clarification
  • Leadership
  • Tone Setting 


There you have the 52 Most Effective and Used Counseling Techniques and Skills For Therapists. Success in using these skills increases as the therapists continue to practice. But once they are developed, the therapist will just find himself using them spontaneously and using several skills at the same time.

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