INFLUENCING SKILLS Basic Listening Sequence (BLS)

theory and practice of counseling  INFLUENCING SKILLS Basic Listening Sequence (BLS)

The basic listening sequence (BLS) was not presented as an integrated sequence until 1980s. Ivy (1988) noticed that the microskill of listening has been part of counseling for over 30 years but the basic listening sequence (BLS) was first identified by a skilled manager Digital Computer Corporation when an employee came up to the manager with a problem on the production line, and the manager engaged in good attending behavior.

Basic Listening Sequence

  • Open questions
  • Closed questions
  • Encouragement
  • Paraphrasing
  • Reflection of feeling
  • Summarization

Influencing Skills

Types of Influencing Skills

  • Interpretation/ reframing
  • Directive
  • Advice/information
  • Self-disclosure
  • Feedback
  • Logical consequences
  • Influencing summary

The microskills system lists an array of change strategies not possible with a strict listening approach. Clients can profit and grow even if you use only attending behavior and listening skills. However, a strict listening approach fails to take advantage of the many possibilities for helping. The microskills system lists an array of skills and strategies that can be useful in guiding clients in changing their stories, thoughts, and feelings.

Interpretation/ Reframing

Interpretation and reframing are perhaps the central influencing skills, for in using these approaches the counselor or therapist most directly seeks to help clients find new meaning to old stories and behaviors. Although microcounseling theory argues for clients finding their own meanings via the basic listening sequence, many people will benefit from assistance and new ways of thinking. Those who have experienced harassment—women, homosexuals, or persons with AIDS, for example—need to tell their stories, but they may also benefit from the therapist’s ideas and reframes. For example, many people who are harassed think of their issues as “their fault”‘ and blame themselves. In that case, a new interpretation and reframing is required.

Description of Interpretation:

It provides an alternative frame of reference from which the client may view a situation. It may be drawn from a theory or from one’s own personal observations. Interpretation may be viewed as the core influencing skill in psychodynamic theory.

Function of Interpretation in Interview:

Interpretation provides a new way to view the situation. The interpretation provides the client with a clear-cut alternative perception of “reality.” This perception may enable a change of view that in turn may result in changes in thoughts, constructs, or behaviors.

Theoretical Orientation Interpretation is a central skill in Psychodynamic counseling. In later stages of therapy, interpretations/ reframes may be the only skill used. However, there is little or no attempt to lead the client to behavioral action. Interpretation is usually avoided in Client-centered.

Reframes from other theoretical approaches can also be helpful. Psychodynamic theory may be useful and can help clients see how their histories and past experiences relate to their present stories. Cognitive-behavioral reframes will often help clients think more effectively about their stories and provide action narratives for the future. The existential-humanistic reframe may help clients focus on their self-value. The point of refraining is to tell the story in a new way, one that is more functional and valuable to the client.



It tells the client what action to take. It may be a simple suggestion stated in command form or a sophisticated technique from a specific theory.

Function in Interview

It clearly indicates to clients what action counselors wish them to take. The prediction with a directive is that the client will do what is suggested.

Theoretical Orientation

Behavioral approaches make a good use of this influencing skill. However, this skill is avoided by a client-centered counselor.



It provides suggestions, instructional Ideas, homework, advice on how to act, think, or behave.

Function in Interview

Used sparingly, may provide client with new and useful information. Specific vocational information is an example of necessary use of this skill.

Theoretical Orientation

Although advice giving is used sparingly in client-centered and humanistic approaches to counseling, information is sometimes essential to provide to the client seeking career and vocational choice.

Self-disclosure l


The interviewer shares personal experience from the past or may share present reactions to the client.

Function in Interview

Counselor emphasizes “I” statements. This skill is closely allied to feedback and may build trust and openness, leading to a more mutual relationship with the client.

Theoretical Orientation

This skill is frequently used by humanistic and existential counselors. In moderate form, this is also used by counselors practicing other counseling approaches.



Provides clients with specific data on how they are seen by the counselor or by others.

Function in Interview

It refers to providing concrete data that may help clients realize how others perceive behavior and thinking patterns thus enabling an alternative self-perception.

Theoretical Orientation

It is used by more or less all counseling approaches. However, feedback and reflection of meaning are most commonly employed by humanistic counselors.

Logical Consequences


Interviewer explains to the client the logical outcome of thinking and behavior—if/then.

Function in Interview

It provides an alternative frame of reference for the client. This skill helps clients anticipate the consequences or results of their actions.

Theoretical Orientation

This skill is most frequently employed by the cognitive counselors.

Influencing Summary


This skill is often used at or near the end of a session to summarize counselor’s comments because it gives structure to casual random conversation; most often it is used in combination with the attending summarization.

Function in Interview

This skill clarifies what has happened in the interview and summarizes what the counselor has said. This skill is designed to help generalization from the interview to daily life.

Focusing and Selective Attention Skills

  • An important purpose of this skill is to help clients to focus on important issues. Other reasons for focusing include broadening clients’ perspectives on problems by examining them from different points of view and helping clients to focus on important issues that they might otherwise avoid facing.
  • The main function of focusing is ‘to direct the client conversational row into the areas you want’ (Ivey, 1994)
  • First focus on the client and later on the problem. Beginning counselors and therapists often focus on problems instead of the people in front of them. It is generally (but not always) wiser to first focus on the client and later on the problem. The temptation is to focus on the problem and solve it, perhaps even disregarding the thoughts and feelings of the client in the process.

Initial Focus: An Example


I’ve got to cope with so many things, and it seems endless. I don’t know where to turn. Every other day, my husband starts fighting. This happens more when he takes drugs. Yesterday, the school counselor called me in because Rehan, my son, got into trouble on the playground. They said he was bullying a smaller boy. How can I solve all these problems?

You are overwhelmed by it all. Let’s start first with you and what’s happening with Sumaira.

  • The counselor uses two personal pronouns and the client’s name. Such naming of the client is an important personalizing technique seldom stressed sufficiently in the helping profession.
  • Although focus should usually be on the client, it can be invaluable to broaden the focus in a balanced fashion to include several additional dimensions.

Types of Focusing

Focused responding and focused exploration are two important focusing skills.

Focused Responding

  • Client statements often have many parts to them. Consequently, you can choose where to focus.
  • Example:

‘I’ve just had the most terrible row with my mother-in-law. I can’t seem to control my temper. OK, there are many problems between me and my husband, but why does she have to interfere? Right now I feel as though I could kill her.’

Focus Analysis: Reframing Clients’ Stories

In working with a complex case such as Sumaira’s, it should be clear that focusing just on her will not be sufficient in the long run. This client needs to work out her relationship with her husband, help her children, and resolve a wide variety of pragmatic problems.

The case illustrated above in the example is also requires similar focus.

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