A counsellor must be in good psychological health- he or she should not be distracted by one’s own problems. Counsellors lacking psychological health, cause greater anxiety in the person who is in need of help.
It has been found that those who have greater sensitivity are able to cope better, understand the client’s verbal and non verbal messages and are also able to apply strategy for each client in a unique fashion. Sensitivity means that the counsellor is aware of the client’s strengths, limitations and coping style.
Open mindedness- in counsellors suggests freedom from fixed or preconceived ideas. Open mindedness does not mean that counsellors are amoral of their beliefs. Open mindedness counsellors are aware of their beliefs or values but are able to distinguish them from those of their clients. They do not push clients to follow a particular belief or value system.
Counsellors maintain objectivity in their dealings with the clients. It requires the counsellor to be aware of his own biases while dealing with the problems of clients. A related quality is that of genuineness. A counsellor has to be sincere and must not mislead or present facades to clients.
The counsellor must have respect for the client. He or she must view the client as a worthwhile person and treat him/her with warmth and dignity.
The counsellor must have attentiveness. It may be verbal or non verbal. Verbal attentiveness involves what is expressed to the client and the way it is expressed. Allowing clients to complete their sentences is one way of showing verbal attentiveness. Use of short verbal encouragers like ‘ya’, i see’ etc are ways of demonstrating verbal attentiveness.
It is also important to learn to alter voice and change the volume, pitch and speed depending on the client’s reactions and situations. Non verbal attentiveness includes eye contact, head nods, facial expression, body posture and distance. These cues should be adapted according to the needs of the situation and the client.
Empathy involves sensitivity to the client’s problems and being able to see things, the way the client does. It involves perceiving and communicating. Perceiving is an intense process of active listening by the counsellor. On the other hand, in communicating the counsellor says something that tells the client that his or her meanings and feelings are understood.
Cultural sensitivity and the knowledge of cultures different from the counsellors own are important to the effective use of empathy.