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The Five Stages of an Interview in Counselling

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    The interview took place in a small room. There were four members from the Interviewing and Counselling class that were present; myself the counsellor, the client and the two others were technical support. The client gave permission for the other two members to be present because they helped to tape and time of the session. The setting was not very ideal, since there were two additional members and the room was available for a limited time. Nevertheless, it worked because it was a familiar setting where we practice our counselling most of the time.

    The setting encouraged comfort and disclosure because the door of the room was closed and the client and I trusted the other members. At the commencement of the session, I introduced myself to the client by using my name and asked her how she was doing. (for some reason this was not recorded). I addressed the client by her name and repeated her name several times during the session. I attempted to establish rapport in a casual and informal way using open ended and closed questions. For example, “How was your weekend? ”, “Did you sleep in? ” This was somewhat effective because eventually the client responded more verbally.

    Also, I had an opportunity for a self-disclosure when I indicated to the client that I liked soup. This made the client enthused and then she asked me a closed question, “Do you cook? ” At this point, I recognized that the relationship was growing but I felt pressured because I had only thirty minutes to include all five stages of the interview. As a result of this, I proceeded to the structure of the interview. I could have spent a few more minutes in establishing rapport because this is the most important stage of the first interview and in some cases; it can be very lengthy and can blend into treatment. (Ivey & Ivey, 2007, p. 229).

    I could have asked her at least two more open ended questions so as to help in building the relationship. For Example, “What do you do in your spare time? ” or “What is your favourite television program? ” A board game could have been effective as well. I think this could have led the client to become more verbal and comfortable. I continued by briefly outlining the structure of the interview. I indicated that we had thirty minutes to talk. There was silence which was okay but I was concerned because the client appeared shock. I think at that moment, the client was astonished because I may have prematurely outlined the structure.

    A more effective way of structuring the interview would be to indicate how I conduct my counselling sessions and how I talk, for example, my voice tone. I did not check with the client to find out if she was comfortable with the plan. Instead, I asked a closed question. “Is there anything specifically you would like to talk about? ” I could have asked her if she was comfortable with the thirty minutes session and if she was comfortable talking about her issue within such as short time frame. This would have made the client feel more relaxed and less pressured.

    Despite this, I was collaborative because I gave the client an opportunity to choose what she would like to talk about and I was interested to hear what she had to say. I was client-focus and was non-judgmental. Finally, in this stage, my goal was to establish rapport and structure as well as to build trust between the client and myself. This stage sets the pace of the interview and is considered the most important stage. (Ivey & Ivey, 2007 p. 229). Stage Two: Gathering Information The client said that she was stressed out because she was not doing well in school as she would like to.

    She stated that her parents paid her tuition fees and they expected her to excel in school. She also said that her parents were dissatisfied with her grades and they were pressuring her to get high grades. She indicated that the pressure from her parents was causing a lot of stress in her life. The client also stated that she has high academic expectations for herself. In my opinion, I think I did a good job at listening to the client’s story. However, I may have not used all the skills necessary to draw out the client’s feelings and meaning in a therapeutic way (Ivey & Ivey, 2007).

    I used open ended and closed questions to gather more in depth information from the client. For example, “What are your expectations? ” and “Would you be satisfied with your grades if your parents do not pressure you? ” I also used encouragers such as head nods and repetition of key words stated by the client. I also summarized her story several times to clarify with the client that I was hearing her correctly. I felt that she was motivated to elaborate (Ivey & Ivey, 2007, pg 231). I also used some observation skills such as observing the client’s verbal and non verbal behaviours, e. . her voice tone, eye contact and the way she was sitting at certain point in the session. While I listened to the tape, I realized that I had empathized and reflected on the client’s feelings a few times and this was done later in the interview. Not reflecting empathy earlier led the client to think that I did not understand her situation. Also, I imposed my values on the client by telling her that eighty percent is good even though she clearly stated that it is really bad for her. I thought this would have made her feel better but it did not.

    If I were to meet this client again for the same issue I would reflect empathy by saying the following: “Getting good grades means a lot to you. I can see you are really not happy with your grade. Let us talk about it to make you feel better. ” I could have talked more about her feelings and the deeper meaning of not doing well as she stated. During the interview, I was genuine because I wanted to help the client feel better even thought I was not empathetic. I made every effort to demonstrate respect and warmth by smiling, leaning forward when she was talking and matching her eye contact (Ivey & Ivey, 2007, p. 24). I also responded to the client as a worthy individual by reacting to her positive statements so as to show positive regards for her (Ivey & Ivey, 2007, p. 223). While conducting a positive asset search, I discovered that the client does get high grades some of the time and she has reasonable study habits as well. During this stage, I think I was not very concrete because I did not explore specific feelings, thoughts and examples of actions (Ivey & Ivey, 2007, p. 224). I did not seek any information about the client outside of her school environment or friends other than her classmates.

    I only talked briefly about her parents pressuring her to get good grades. I could have encouraged discussion with regards to the above, this could have led me to help the client discover that she has more strengths. Finally, I would say that I could have spent more time to understand the deeper meaning of the client’s story. Stage Three: Mutual Goal Setting I approach goal setting when the client was ready. I asked her again what specifically she would like to focus on and she said that she already told me. Then, I asked her to remind me and she said school.

    I then asked, “Are you ready to commit yourself to getting better grades? ” She replied, “That is the reason why I am meeting with you. ” It was collaborative even though she asked me to take a more directive role during the goal setting. I gave her suggestions and I made it clear that she does not have to go with the suggestions if they do not make sense to her. However, we went through the suggestions together and then she was ready to set the goal we had talked about. At this point, there was a discrepancy when she stated that she was not computer literate and this would set her back with regards to making a time table.

    I confronted her in a gentle way by telling her not to worry because we can do it right now if she was ready. She responded in a happy tone and said “Oh! Okay, that’s fine, I am okay with that. ” According to Ivey and Ivey (2007, p. 268) effective confrontation builds new strengths in the client. While in discussion focusing on setting the goal there was a value conflict when I asked the closed question, “Did you ever think of studying for shorter period of time each day, instead of studying for four hours on some days”. She replied, “That would not make sense to me. I asked her this question because I was thinking at the time that studying for four hours at once is too much. The way I phrased the question may have sounded judgemental towards her current studying habits. We collaboratively decided upon a study schedule that she was comfortable with. She would follow it at home, whereby she would study the various subjects for six days per week, for two hours each day. She would also ask her teachers and friends for help whenever she does not understand something so as to achieve the goal of getting higher grades.

    I think the goal was concrete because the client was very specific with what she wanted and how she was going to get there. It was also achievable because it was realistic. When I listened to the tape, I was surprised when I heard my voice saying “I am sure if you follow the schedule you would do much better”. I could have said, “You have a better chance of getting higher grades if you follow the schedule. ” Finally, I would say that I explored and identified positive assets in the client such as her ability to study for four hours on some days, get good grades; she is independent and has someone to pay for her tuition.

    These can be used as a “spring board” to achieve her goal. Stage Four: Working In this stage, I encourage the client to generate ideas to help change her situation (Ivey & Ivey, 2007, p. 234). She requested my help so we explored alternatives such as establishing a schedule that she would study the various subjects six days per week for two hours each day so as to get higher grades. This was done in a collaborative fashion as I encouraged the client to take part in the planning process.

    Even though, I listened to her actively, paraphrased and summarized, I could have further encouraged her to explore other ways in which she could make her situation better. I could have asked her to take part in brainstorming (anything that comes to her mind) and, I could have found out what had worked for her in the past (Ivey & Ivey, 2007, p. 234). I was able to apply positive assets to restory the situation by telling her that she could do better if she follows the schedule. She is also independent and has great strengths in studying for long hours and get good grades.

    During this stage, I stated the plan on achieving the goal repeatedly by summarizing. I checked in with the client to ensure that the plan was going to work for her and get her closer to her goal. The client was ready to work on the plan established right away, which showed that there was congruence in what she wanted to do and what she was willing to do, to achieve her expectations. As a result, I praised her for being proactive on the plan. I cannot think of any other discrepancies during this stage except when she said, “It is easier said than done, ‘whatever’, I will try it. I confronted her by saying “It does not seem that you are happy with the plan. ” This sounded as though I was imposing my values onto the client. I could have asked her to explain her feelings about the plan instead. I was able to engage the client in the process of re-storying and designing the plan, whereby she wrote the schedule and read it aloud. She affirmed that she would work with the schedule on a daily basis and try to be consistent. She concluded by saying that she looked forward to do much better in school. Again, I reminded her that she has a lot of strengths in studying and getting good marks.

    Stage Five: Terminating After going through the four stages I realized that the client was focused on getting better grades. I listened to her actively and we decided on a plan of action collaboratively to improve her situation because she asked for my help in designing the plan. I read the plan that was written by the client and reminded her that she said she was willing to go with the plan. She agreed by saying yes. With my suggestion, she decided to check with her teachers and friends on a daily basis if she does not understand anything during her studies.

    I think they were effective because she was motivated and ready to work on the plan. The plan of action was concrete because she was specific in what she will do on a daily basis and it was in writing. As much as the plan was concrete, that does not mean that she would achieve her goal because changes and new behaviours do not come easily (Ivey & Ivey, 2007, p. 235). The client showed commitment to the plan. She chose to write it and then she read it aloud. This led me to think that she would follow through with it because she wanted to change the situation, especially when she said, “It looks like something that I can achieve. Without my influence, the client indicated that she would see me again if she was not able to work with the plan so that we can revise it. She would do her homework by working with the schedule and would follow up with me the next week to see how she was doing. Over all, I was happy with the way the session concluded because the client did not want to talk about anything else when I asked her. This indicated to me that she was happy with the plan and was ready to commit to the plan. She also stated, “Thank you” in a friendly tone of voice and affirmed that she appreciated my help.

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