It is only the first step, in actively listening, to encourage the young person to speak about themselves through the deft use of questioning techniques. How a practitioner responds can provide a positively reinforcing experience of opening-up for the young person, or unfortunately sometimes the opposite. Where the practitioner has positioned themselves ‘alongside’ the young person, responding using techniques described below can further encourage and deepen conversation, or allow the young person to see their lives from a fresh perspective.

Responding skills

These techniques, applied carefully and naturally into the flow of conversation, can create the opportunity for the young person and practitioner to begin to understand the deeper meaning of their words.


This is a statement or series of statements that attempts to mirror another person’s main words or thoughts. This can be used as a way to check with the client and seek clarification. Effective paraphrasing brings together ideas, thoughts, issues or threads of a discussion. An example of a paraphrasing statement, drawing on our earlier casework example may be:

“Jess, if I have heard you right, you are very worried about several stressful things including being evicted from your flat, and having your payments cut off”


Where the paraphrase is focused on the ideas or thoughts of the person, the reflection of feeling is focused on emotions within the other person. For example:

“Jess, it appears to me that that the school’s response to you has left you feeling very down on yourself about your parenting”


Summarising involves giving a brief review of the key points, including issues, thoughts and feelings raised by the client. Through this a worker can establish if their listening is accurate and it can provide a break in the session. For example:

“I understand that you also feel that you have let your kids down and are upset about the school judging you harshly”


Interpreting involves the worker using their perspective to rename or re-label a person’s thoughts, feelings or actions. It is often advisable to interpret from a cautious and open position, so that it invites a response and further exploration. If an interpretation is presented as ‘the truth’, a client may feel disempowered and misunderstood. An example of an interpretation is:

“Jess, I’m wondering if you are also feeling really angry that he has contacted you again after believing that he was out of your life”


Affirmations can be wonderful rapport builders when congruent and genuine. Encouraging and highlighting the positive ways clients have coped, adapted, changed, and survived can be extremely supporting and helpful in establishing a positive relationship. For example:

“Jess, I’m really impressed by your commitment to your kids. What shines through is how determined you are to create a good life for them”


Self-disclosure is the sharing of a worker’s feelings, attitudes, opinions and experiences with the client. Self-disclosure can be appropriate, but caution must be taken in ensuring that it is of assistance to the client, rather than for the worker’s own purposes. For example:

“I feel really nervous too, when I have to go to meetings at my kids school”


Reframing is a way of changing the emphasis of an event or feeling. This can assist in giving clients a different perspective. For example:

“Jess, even though you found it tough, you persisted with the school which is so supportive for your kids”


Challenging refers to pointing out contradictions in the client’s behaviour or statements or to induce them to face an issue being avoided. As with interpretation, caution should be employed in how this is done by the counsellor. Sensitivity to the timing and framing of a challenge is crucial. For example:

“Jess, you have talked about the school poking their nose in your business, but you also have said that you think they should be doing more to support you. What would be a balance between these two things?”

Below are elements from the Therapeutic Models which can create a new understanding of what the young person has been disclosing in the conversation

E3. Externalising conversations

B8. Reframing or perspective taking