How to conduct a therapeutic interview

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  • The environment
  • What the client thinks during specific circumstances
  • How the client acts in reaction to them

  • The client’s reflection of the facts of his or her story may be
  • open-ended
  • fragmented
  • unpredictable

  • As the story unfolds
  • situations clarify

Initial steps

1.    communication

2.    understanding

Counsellor must

  • attend
  • encourage
  • connect
  • share similar experiences

Client encouragement

  • client should do the majority of talking
  • three feet of distance

Counsellor should use

  • encouragers
  • open questions
  • paraphrasing

Encourage talking to

  • go deeper
  • to give meaning to relevant  issues

so that the client feels

  • heard
  • understood


  1. verbal (fluent)
  2. unconscious

expressed as

  1. talk
  2. body language

often in relation to

  • culture
  • environment


Opening skills

tell me more...

  • encouragers
    • open questions
    • non-coercive
  • inviting
  • positive

  • what is bothering you?
  • why did you schedule a session?

Minimal Encouragers
utterances to urge the client to reveal more

  • uh huh
  • I see
  • I am following you

Shows counsellor  

  • attention
  • understanding
  • is on track

without disruption


sums up understanding (preferably as a question) to encourage client’s confirmation of it:

  1. I hear from what you are saying that you think...
  2. It sounds like...
  3. From what I can tell, you think...

It reflects counsellor understanding of client’s

  • thoughts
  • relevant experiences

Reflection of feelings

are fully fluent responses to  the client that

  • identify specific emotions (in relation to events and experiences)
  • verbalize feelings to point to them objectively to then approach meanings
  • careful use of thoughts vs. feeling vocabulary

You feel <these feelings>

Client response

  • confirms correct feelings from impressions
  • is disclosure

Reflection of meaning

Worldview/values from experiences

  • life
  • culture


  • self
  • others
  • world

When expressing feeling, client will often return to superficial facts as they “feel safer,” possibly cyclically

Summarizing statements focus

  • facts
  • experiences
  • thoughts
  • feelings
  • meanings

Summarizing types:


  • highlight issues
  • keep on track


  • that material is absorbed
  • move on with “story”

Thematic reflects

  • patterns
  • places to return to

that are certain to provide "inroads" to deeper meaning

Open Questions

  • invite expression
  • encourage the client to offer rich details
  • less coercive for clients who are inhibited

could you tell me about the <specific experiences>?

Closed Questions

obtain specific information (increased granularity)

  • short
  • factual


  • often
  • many
  • long
  • strong

Leading questions

get to the

  • underlying beliefs that
  • create emotions  as a
  • fluent message that is probably
  • hidden, or unconscious

Citable reference (APA format)[edit]

Young, M. (2009). Learning the art of helping: Building blocks and techniques. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Merrill/Pearson.