5: Integrating Reflective Listening

Structured Practice Example 5: Integrating Reflective Listening

'''Aim''': To provide trainees practice at integrating reflective listening with other counseling kills.
It is one thing to teach counselors to be able to generate an isolated reflective listening statement on command. It is quite another to help them build this skill into their regular counseling style, and to sustain reflective listening instead of falling back into old habits (roadblocks). This is a difficult step, and requires teaching your audience that it is possible to respond to a client, effectively and warmly, using almost nothing except reflective listening.

'''Time''': 30 minutes.

'''Format''': Trainees are arranged in pairs.

'''Trainee Preparation''':
Each participant is asked to prepare to speak on a specified topic that can be explored for at least 15 minutes. An interesting example: "Describe an experience you have had that you believe would be quite difficult for another person to understand." The topic should be of sufficient complexity to allow 15 minutes of elaboration and exploration.

Demonstrating the skill can be good preparation for this exercise. Have a volunteer from the audience come forward and talk with you about a topic he or she is willing to share. Some good options are:
''Something I feel two ways about
How I felt growing up at home
What I'd like to do over the next five years''

In responding to the speaker, use 100% reflective listening statements if possible. (The temptation is to ask questions.)

'''Commentary''':
This is an additional practice that can be valuable in experiencing how the skill of reflective listening can be integrated with other counseling responses (questions, affirmations, etc.). A minimum of 15 minutes per speaker should be allowed, which with role switching requires at least 30 minutes. We recommend not circulating among pairs during this exercise, as it interrupts the flow of conversation.

'''Briefing''':
1. Have each pair decide who will speak first.
2. The listener's task is (a) to use nonverbal and reflective-listening skills to attend to the speaker, and (b) to seek to understand the experience the speaker is describing. Other kinds of responses may be used by the listener as appropriate, but about 90% of responses should be reflective-listening statements.
3. Ask trainees not to break role or discuss the experience before you interrupt them. Allow at least 15 minutes before asking the partners to switch roles.

'''Debriefing''':
Ask trainees to describe this experience. Ask for questions and reactions that have arisen through this exercise.