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Counselling Skills Workshop

The context is a small multidisciplinary group of managers. This group has expressed interest particularly in learning counselling skills as an aid to the development of subordinates and in a wider context.

In our discussions we agreed that counselling skills could have a wider utility for managers. The move from a 'vertical' to a 'flat' management structure increased the need for the manager to develop his/her people. A counselling approach is important here, especially when the manager can not be a technical expert in the subordinates' area.

Helping people learn and develop is a key part of the manager's task.

Outline design


Counselling is a helping art and a science. It cannot be learned without personal involvement and practice. There are some basic building blocks (listening, questioning, and suspending judgement) which must be learned and understood first. It is impossible to understand or value counselling fully without being counselled. It requires high trust and people learn it best in a trusting and confidential atmosphere.

Design-Day 1

Introduction, welcome, objectives, atmosphere and norms (listening, support, learning from each other, sharing experiences), confidentiality, feedback.

Circle-Name, what you do, something that is going well

Brief about listening, and then go around group "What do you want from the course, any reservations?"

List wants, respond to reservations show they will get their wants. Outline programme.

Review listening briefly; explain it is a crucial part of helping people help themselves (counselling).

Pairs 15-min each way. Listening practice on a subject chosen by the talker. This can be more on what s(he) wants from course, a little worry, his/her situation, a happy memory or what it is like to work in the team. Focus is on the listening. The listener should be there for the talker, get inside the talkers skin, imagine what it might feel like, pay attention, encourage "go on" etc., do not distract.

Review listening practice, what do effective listeners do, what is the effect, what is it like to be understood?

What is counselling and how does it work? One form of helping, the counselling model, the importance of accepting and releasing feelings, listening to everything. The usefulness and context of counselling in your work place. The limits of counselling with finite skill and resources

Demonstration of counselling skills with course member

Review of demonstration

Practice sessions in pairs. Client works on real issue, counsellor focuses initially on helping client get a deep understanding of the issue, tries not to rush to solve it.

Review of practice

Review of day

Design-Day 2

Circle-One thing you will contribute today, one thing you want from today.

Further counselling theory. E.g. The importance of deciding to do something as a way of dealing with powerlessness. How people get stuck and unstuck.

Counselling practice in small group(s). In the counselling practice each person has time as client, counsellor and observer. People choose their own subject. They have the option of talking about how to help or develop a member or group of their staff if they wish. If additional theory or technique is required it will be offered. After each session there is a review of the process.

Coaching is different from counselling, as both parties need listening-skills. What do good coaches do? Experience Transfer. Brief practice of coaching skills in pairs.

Pairs. What have we learned so far and how can we apply it to work?

Share results. Deal with any unfinished business.

Closing Circle

Senior manager's long term evaluation

The course was extremely worthwhile. We developed the listening and counselling skills that are essential for today's managers. The process also built relationships in our management team. 


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Phone +44 (0)1707886553, or +44(0)7879861525 email or Skype nickheap

Using these materials
I am entirely happy for you to use or draw on any these materials in any way you think will be helpful. I am keen to have my work, and the work of the people I have learned from, used.  


The language on this site is correct UK English throughout. There are differences in spelling and meaning between UK and US English. The context should make the material understandable in the US.

Further Information

There are free articles, exercises, designs, book references and links to other sources about many aspects of personal, team, management and organisation development on this website. I will add other resources as I learn what you want.

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