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Steps to Active Listening

25 Aug

Course excerpt from Active Listening: Techniques that Work for Children and Parents

Active ListeningOne of the fundamental tools of clinicians who work effectively with children and adolescents in the areas of speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and counseling is the art of listening. Without this set of skills, clinicians are likely to miss essential pieces of information their clients are trying to communicate to them, whether with words or with behavior.

When the word “active” is added to “listening” it alters and amplifies the communication process to include a dynamic feedback loop in which the speaker and the listener validate that each party has been accurately heard.

Many clinicians, like Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), are trained to help their young clients improve their communication abilities; other clinicians, such as physical therapists and occupational therapists, assist clients with their activities of daily living. Many times children who are having difficulties in various functional areas are also experiencing negative reactions to their developmental, physical and communication challenges. If they do not see themselves as successful in school and with peers, they can begin to perceive themselves negatively and – worse – start to expect failure. Clinicians need skills to help their clients overcome these damaging reactions and help them think positively about their ability to make changes in their lives.

Active listening is a communication technique that is used in counseling, conflict resolution and training, as well as in many other everyday situations. The listener is required to repeat what they hear the speaker say by re-stating directly or paraphrasing. This way, both the speaker and the listener know that their words have been heard and understood by the other, confirming understanding by both parties.

There are three basic steps in the process of active listening:

  1. Body Language: This is key to letting your client know that you are interested in what they have to say. Listen with full attention, eye contact and body language. One can turn to face the child and get down to his eye level. A gentle touch on the shoulder might be helpful. Leaning forward, smiling and nodding all indicate interest. This shows the child that you care and that his problem requires your full attention. Adults also respond to this. Open posture, gentle voice, friendly facial expression, nodding and tilting of the head to the side are some more ways to indicate interest.
  2. Verbal Encouragers: Prompts used to elicit more information from the client such as: “Uh huh,” “Yes,” and “Umm.” This encourages the speaker to continue speaking and feel as though the listener is engaged in what they are saying. Some listening noises are often helpful. It helps the conversation along without being too intrusive. Denton (2015) explains that “when we give a simple acknowledgment…we establish that the words are heard and stand on their own without a need for endorsement or clarification. They are valuable in and of themselves.”
  3. Paraphrasing: This assures the client that you have accurately heard them and allows them to hear, in turn, how someone else perceives them. It is viewed as an empathetic response to their communication, and allows clients to feel heard so they can then expand on their experiences and feelings, giving valuable information to the clinician.


Although active listening is just one aspect of the counseling experience, it may very well be the most important one. According to Luterman (2006), “The counseling relationship is not a conventional one; it places a different set of demands on the professional. It is a relationship that requires deep, selfless listening. The professional must be willing to put aside his or her agenda and listen to the client. Therefore, the professional can have no point of view other than trying to hear and understand where the client is coming from, and in many cases, reflect that back to the client. Within a counseling relationship, there is the understanding that wisdom resides within the client; therefore, all professional judgments are suspended. Because nonjudgmental listening offers a high degree of emotional safety for the client, he or she can begin the process of resolving problems.”

Click here to learn more.

Active Listening: Techniques that Work for Children and ParentsActive Listening: Techniques that Work for Children and Parents is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that offers a valuable compilation of practical and ready-to-use strategies and techniques for achieving more effective communication through active listening. One of the fundamental tools of clinicians who work effectively with children and adolescents is the art of listening. Without this set of skills, clinicians are likely to miss essential pieces of information their clients are trying to communicate to them, whether with words or with behavior. When the word “active” is added to “listening” it alters and amplifies the communication process to include a dynamic feedback loop in which the speaker and the listener validate that each party has been accurately heard. Appropriate use of listening skills by a clinician can increase self-esteem in young clients and motivate them to learn. Using active listening skills, clinicians become more confident and manage their therapy and counseling sessions with a broader and mutually respectful dialogue. This course will teach clinicians how to employ innovative and practical communication and conversational skills in their individual and group therapy sessions with clients and their families, as well as in their working relationships with other professionals. These techniques can be applied to a wide variety of clinical, classroom and home situations, and case examples are included. Also included are sections on positive thinking and resilience, problem-solving skills, and the communication of emotion. Course #30-90 | 2017 | 70 pages | 20 posttest questions


This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion.
Professional Development Resources is approved to sponsor continuing education (CE) by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA Provider #AAUM); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501) and the Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).
 

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