Learning to speak Counsellor

Do you ever use; ““How do you feel?” How did that make you feel?, What do you feel about that?” in your practice, as a client how many times in one session does your therapist ask you about your feelings?

I think we sometimes fire the “How do you feel?” question at clients far too easily. It’s a get out of doing any work question for counsellors. It can of course be extremely useful to find out about feelings after all emotions are a huge part of our work. The idea of coming into therapy is to find out how we do feel about things but it becomes a pointless question if the client can’t answer it effectively.


We know that we all have different levels of psychological mindfulness (essentially how counselling clever are we) this of course fluctuates and grows as we get older. Often a lack of response to feeling based questions can be taken as a lack of this emotional intellect, however I often wonder how much is down to a lack of emotional word knowledge?

We don’t all read vast amounts of emotional stimuli or be surrounded by emotive beings that plump out our emotional vocabulary, sometimes we answer “fine” to all the above questions because that is actually how we feel, we know no other words.

So to judge others as not being present or chastising them for not engaging and seeing this as resistance maybe says more about our own judgements against clients?


Some ways to help your clients communicate is actually to work through emotional vocabulary together. Make some flash cards with words, or use different charts and talk through the meaning, rank the words with the most severe to least weighted emotions and encourage them to use a variety of emotional words whilst engaging with a physical feeling they may experience simultaneously.


over the moon
thrilled to bits
on cloud nine
jovial, in high spirits, jubilant
jovial, in high spirits, jubilant
pleased, contented, glad


down in the dumps
beside yourself
crushed, devastated, despondent, despairing
troubled, bleak, dejected
let down, gloomy, low


to rub someone up the wrong way
to do one’s nut
to be a bit hot under the collar
fuming, enraged, incensed, outraged, livid
ticked off, miffed, cranky, exasperated
dismayed, sullen, uptight


at the end of your tether
at your wits’ end
worthless, broken, finished
deficient, feeble, lacking
incapable, helpless


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