Attitudes and qualities of a good counsellor

A capable counsellor must possess a number of personal qualities and develop the proper attitudes to make a client feel at ease and to build rapport so that a client can self-disclose.  What are these personal qualities?


Empathic understanding is the ability to see things from the client’s perspective. Without this quality a counsellor will be unable to comprehend the problems, experiences, thoughts and feelings of another person, and will not be able to offer clients the level of supportive understanding that they will require.

The counsellor’s full attention and empathy encourages a client to relax and trust and encourages self-disclosure.

Congruence and warmth

A counsellor should be agreeable and act appropriately to provide the client with a comfortable foundation for the counsel­ling relationship. Only by creating a friendly atmosphere can the counsellor encourage interaction and disclosure.

  • Maintain warmth and genuine understanding.
  • Use appropriate body language such as a non-threatening posture, while maintaining eye contact and respecting the client’s personal space.
  • Maintain a reassuring and comforting way of speech – the tone of voice, speed of speech and style of delivery.


Counsellors must at all times show respect for clients and their welfare. They must also remain impartial and non-judgmental.

A client must feel comfortable, safe and confident that confidentiality will be maintained at all times and also that the counsellor is committed to helping, encouraging and supporting.

Whilst maintaining a professional focus a counsellor must be able to show a genuine openness.

Positive regard

It is of vital importance in the counselling relationship that the counsellor demonstrates a positive acceptance of the client and that the client is valued and respected.

A positive, unconditional regard for the wellbeing of a client is the basis from which clients can explore their thoughts, feelings and experiences, and develop an understanding and acceptance of their emotions.

A counsellor must not judge in any way. This may be difficult in some situations, but is the basis of a counselling relationship built on trust.

Accepting a client shows the individual that you are there to support them through the counselling process, regardless of their weaknesses, negativity or unfavourable qualities.

Important values

At all times counsellors must show a commitment to values such as the following:

  • Human dignity
  • Alleviating personal distress
  • Appreciating the differences in culture
  • Remaining non-judgmental
  • Ensuring the integrity of the client/counsellor relationship
  • Maintaining client confidentiality and ethical principles.

Personal skills

Each counsellor will bring their own unique abilities, qualities and skills into a counselling relationship to help ensure that their client feels safe and supported. These may include:

  • Active listening skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • The ability to question, reflect and challenge attitudes and beliefs
  • A genuine interest in providing support.

Other important skills include good planning and motivational skills, problem solving, organisational ability and re-orientation skills.

Personal knowledge

In addition to counselling qualifications, a counsellor should be armed with sufficient personal knowledge and understanding of what counselling is all about.

He/she must also be clear about the role of the counsellor and the problems, issues and expectations every client will present.

Counsellors must be self-aware, and must be in control of their feelings, thoughts and emotions whilst working with clients.

Personal development

Through his/her own development a counsellor will also pick up additional understanding and knowledge, which can be used effectively to support a client during the counselling process.

Counselling skills are constantly improved if the counsellor has an interest in self-awareness and self-development. This continual process can include a growth in the following:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-counselling
  • Work/life balance
  • Career and personal focus
  • Goal setting.

Source: Attitudes and Qualities of a Counsellor:


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What is SAAP?

The need for pastoral work

South Africans suffer from spiritual wounds and stress. The causes are many - the lack of reconciliation, poverty, HIV/AIDS, unemployment, ongoing violence, crime and transformation in the workplace. Problems in the family, marriage and relationships are compounded by the issues such as debt and work-related stress.

An overwhelmed society needs trained caregivers to actively become part of the healing process.

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Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. - 1 Chronicles 28:20 (NIV)