Wednesday, September 25, 2013

17 Game-Changing Questions for Any Counseling Situation

A few posts back, I ran a video blog that (among other things) shared how I think that questions are powerful tools in the counseling office. Since that seemed to strike a chord with many of you, I thought I'd share with you guys my favorite, top-secret, GAME-CHANGING questions that cut through the "story" and get at the heart of the matter. 

These questions will help you turn the session around when it stagnates and show clients that you really "get" them.  If you've ever worried that you might fumble or sound unsure of yourself, memorizing a few of these key questions will help you avoid that. And since questions should always be used with caution, I've also included at the end of this article today 3 Ethical Keys to make sure you're asking questions responsibly and judicially. 

17 Game-Changing Questions For Any Counseling Situation


1. When did this first start?
2. How do you see what happened/is happening?
3. How do you describe yourself? 

4. How would your family describe you?
5. What drives you?
6. What one thing makes you who you are?


7. What was it that made you call a counselor?
8. Why is now the right time for a change?
9. What are you doing this for?
10. What possibilities will there be in your life once you no longer are burdened by this issue?

Uncovering the Problem

11. When are you free of [the problem?]
12. What do you feel like when you do not have to deal with [the problem?]

Discovering Barriers to Change

13. What would your life be like if you woke up tomorrow and no longer had [the problem?] (Miracle question.)
14. Who in your life would benefit if you no longer had [the problem?]
15. Who in your life would struggle if you solved [the problem?]
16. What have you tried before to help with [the problem?]
17. What do you think has stopped you in the past from being free of this issue?

Ethical Keys

  1. Tone matters. You must never use an angry or judgmental tone when you ask questions, or it will blow up in your face.
  2. Spacing matters. Don't rattle off multiple questions at a time. These questions are designed to help you uncover gold. So ask them, and sit back, and let your client lead you straight to the motherlode.
  3. Follow-up matters. After you ask a difficult question, it is often helpful to come back to them and assess how it was for them. You might say something like: "Was that scary for you to answer?" "Did you feel concerned about how I would respond to your answer?" Follow-up questions allow you to assess your questions' suitability for a particular client, and to recover from any misunderstandings that might have happened. 
What's your favorite question to ask a client? Why? 

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