Questions in Counselling: Open & Closed Questions

A combination of open and closed questions are often used in counselling to get to the root of a problem and help clients to open up and talk about how they are feeling.

People attend counselling for many different reasons and the questions a counsellor asks are key to pinpointing an issue, clarifying facts, understanding the client’s frame of mind, and opening up new areas of discussion.

We’ve taken a close look at both open and closed questions used by counsellors.

What is the difference between open and closed questions?

To understand how open and closed questions can be used effectively in different situations, it’s important to understand the difference between them.

Open-ended questions are often used in counselling to encourage a client to give a free-form answer, giving them control of the conversation. Whereas closed-ended questions are answered with a simple “yes” or “no”, meaning answers are limited.

Used alone or together, both open and closed questions can be effective in helping a client explore their thoughts and feelings and address their worries.

Effective open-ended questions in counselling

Most counsellors use open-ended questions to help and support their clients. As well as being a great way to encourage people to open up about how they are feeling, they are also a fantastic way to spark up conversations about day-to-day life which can help make a client feel more at ease.

Open-ended questions also provide an opportunity to delve deeper into all aspects of your client’s life and get to know them better.

Common open-ended questions used within a counselling setting include:

  • What brings you here today?
  • How would you describe your current day-to-day mood?
  • What do you consider to be your biggest problem?
  • How does this problem make you feel?
  • What changes would you like to make to your life?
  • What are you hoping to achieve from your counselling sessions?

Effective closed questions in counselling

Closed questions are also commonly used in counselling. Although they provoke a minimal “yes” or “no” response, they can be useful for obtaining the information or specific details you need from a client.

Some common examples of closed-ended questions are:

  • Where do you work?
  • Do you enjoy your occupation?
  • Do you socialise a lot?
  • Do you have any hobbies you enjoy?
  • Do you feel happy with your life at the moment?
  • Do you feel sad?
  • Are you living alone?

Although these questions don’t leave the client room to explore or discuss how they feel, they are a great way of gaining the necessary information you need to gain a picture of your client’s life and how they are feeling.

Of course, in any counselling session, it’s important that you adapt to your client’s preferences and situation.

A skilled counsellor should always adopt interviewing techniques that benefit their client’s individual needs and don’t cause any unnecessary discomfort or confusion.

If you're interested in becoming a therapist and learning more about how different types of questions can be helpful during sessions, then check out our counselling courses or our hypnotherapy courses. You can also get in touch today or request a prospectus.