PCN-515 Topic 2 Empathetic Listening Practice Exercise

PCN-515 Topic 2 Empathetic Listening Practice Exercise

PCN-515 Topic 2 Empathetic Listening Practice Exercise

Emotional intelligence may be learned just like any other ability. It requires work. There are several automatic reactions that may prevent a client from feeling understood: PCN-515 Topic 2 Empathetic Listening Practice Exercise

  1. The urge to fix it – Counseling is something you enter because you want to help people. When a client presents a problem, you want to be able to help them address it. Although assisting a client come up with alternate responses is an important element of counseling, jumping to solutions too soon will impede you from knowing the client’s issue properly and may give them the impression that you don’t. Consider instances where you went to someone to talk about a problem and they gave you advise before you had a chance to fully describe the issue. Often the initial presentation of a problem is only the tip of the iceberg. The counselor needs to “unpeel the onion” to uncover the real issues. When you attune to the client by active listening until you get a full understanding of the client’s perspective, the client feels understood and you make sure that the next steps are really useful to the client. We will explore later when advice can be useful but the key to effective counseling is to always listen first.


  1. The urge to get the client to take responsibility for their role in the problem – As you will see later in the course, confrontation and challenge can be a very useful part of the counseling process, but you have to develop a trusting relationship before a client can be confronted and challenged. Premature challenge can create defensiveness that can become a barrier to change. You can only effectively confront when you fully understand the client’s perspective and that she/he feels understood. The best challenge comes from empathy and attunement to the client’s perspective.
  2. The urge to get all the details – Sometimes counselors have a voyeuristic need to get all the details of the client’s situation. If the counselor asks too many questions about the details of the situation, the client can become passive and wait for the next question. When the counselor performs reflective listening, clients will often explore further on their own. They get to tell you what is important to them about the story. The relevant details will often emerge as you stay with the client and listen carefully to the story.

So what should the counselor do? The first step is to help the client feel safe and understood. The best way to do this is to always start with empathic listening. The best way to train yourself to do this well is to practice just listening and responding. The counselor listens for feelings, for the situation, for the needs, for the values, and for the conflicts. He or she takes everything the client says and focuses on the core of it. Examples of appropriate counselor responses include “Let me make sure I understand what is most painful about this for you…….,” or “You have talked about a number of concerns but I get a sense that the conflict with your dad is what is bothering you the most.”

Active or empathic listening also has a number of other important benefits. In a conflict situation, if you actively listen to the other person’s perspective first and then express your own views, you will be more likely to have a productive conflict resolution session. What often occurs in conflict is both people trying to express their views and no one is listening. In relationships, one common complaint is that “you just don’t listen.” Taking a few minutes to actively listen can really improve couple communication. These skills are often taught in couple counseling. When someone is being confusing or unclear, active listening will often help to clarify the communication. When someone repeats something five times, it is probably because they feel like you did not get it the first time. Active listening can immediately defuse someone who is upset.


Ask a volunteer to let you practice with them. If you have the ability, make a short audio tape or video of the session that can help you to examine and critique your skills so that you can improve your performance. This exercise will take about 10 minutes. Your job during this session is just to practice your empathy and active listening skills. Active or empathic listening involves feeding back your understanding of what the client is saying. If you feel tempted to give advice, ask a lot of questions, or challenge the client, bite your tongue. Using the skill of active listening will feel really awkward and uncomfortable at first. Remember what it was like learning to ride a bike. Stick with it no matter how awkward it feels.

Your job during these ten minutes is to fully understand your “client’s” perspective. After your 10 minutes, ask your client how well you did in really understanding their perspective. Ask if there is anything you missed. Ask if there is any place where you misunderstood what they were saying. Take every opportunity to practice active listening this week. PCN-515 Topic 2 Empathetic Listening Practice Exercise

PCN 515 Week 2 Discussion Recent

Week 2 DQ 1 Read and complete the “Empathetic Listening Practice Exercise.” What did you learn from the exercise? What went well? What could have gone better? How well did you feel you attuned to your volunteer client?

Week 2 DQ 2 Read and complete the “Probing and Summarizing Practice Exercise.” What did you learn from the exercise? What went well? What could have gone better? How well do you feel that your probing and summarizing furthered the counseling process?

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