Stages of counselling Process (3,5 ,6 ,7 + PDFs )

The stages of the counseling process can be described as a planned and structured dialogue between a counselor and a client. It is a cooperative process in which a counselor or therapist help a client to recognize their difficulties he or she experiences. A heightened awareness of the problems is aimed. The counselor or therapist in collaboration with the client creates a goal or an intervention plan in which the client would be committed to.

The 3 Stages of Counselling Process

There are 3 Stages of Counselling Process that are common even if there’s a myriad of techniques that can be used in the sessions. The counselor would employ different counseling techniques based on the client’s needs but the 3 stages namely, the initial, middle, and last stage, would guide the process.

The initial stage in the 3 stages of counselling process involves rapport building between the counselor and the client. The initial disclosure of the client would be welcomed by an empathizing counselor. The middle stage can be characterized by an in-depth exploration of the client’s concerns. The last of the 3 stages includes implementation of the intervention and consequently ensuring client’s commitment to the goals as the counseling process comes to an end.

Depending on the scope of the client’s concerns, the 3 stages of the counseling process could happen in cycles. After successfully addressing a client’s problem, another problem of different nature may arise. As such, the counselor would navigate the counseling process back and address the next concern. 

Initial Stage

The counseling process outcome largely rests on the counselor-client relationship. Setting the tone of the relationship involves first defining the counseling parameters and the boundaries. 

The counselor might introduce briefly himself/herself and conversation slowly progresses to the client. Background is also being collated while social conversations are sprinkled to make clients feel at ease. Moreover, the communication pattern of the counselor involves the following:


The counselor would take note of the client’s reaction, tone of voice, body language, eye contact, and other observable behaviors to set the counseling process well. Addressing the client by their name also helps. Measures are done to make sure that feels calm, welcomed and heard. Likewise, if the client feels domineering, the role imbalance should also be addressed.

Active Listening

This involves being fully engaged and genuine with the client. Sometimes just by mere listening the client may feel relieved from a great deal of stress. The counselor exudes active listening by learning forward, nodding, focusing on what is being said and how it was said.


The client is motivated to express himself/herself freely without judgment from the counselor. The problems are to be viewed from the perspective of the client. Unconditional acceptance of the client is needed and the personal views of the counselor if contradicting should not be aired. The client would feel if the counselor shows empathy and acceptance. If the client felt judged the counselling process would not move forward.

Questioning & Responding

These play a major role in the counseling process. These would entail a breadth of information about the client’s feelings, thought patterns, and interpersonal relationships. Responding to the statements can raise a point of reflection and clarification which advances the counselling process. More so, these contribute to the counselor-client relationship because the client would feel more understood.

Middle Stage

Next on the 3 stages of the counselling process is the middle or the in-depth exploration stage. The key here is to build on the counselor-client relationship from the initial stage and extract as much information as possible. A clearer picture of the client and his/her problem should be painted.  

Also, the changes in how the client reacts or feels about the session are noted. There may be resistance and projection of feelings towards the counselor.

All the information gathered is used to summarize and identify the client’s concerns. A left out information can be detrimental to the whole counselling process. Consequently, a goal or a plan is hatched by the end of this counselling process stage. 

Identifying Client’s Concern

The assessment of the concern begins with continuing with the client’s background information, like name, age, address, marital status, occupation, and socioeconomic status. 

This should be followed by the problems affecting the client’s personal life and in functioning in his/her workplace. Also making a note of the duration of the problem, mood changes, family dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and other sociocultural factors helps in understanding the client’s situation. Psychological testing might also be utilized.

As the scope of the client’s concern is laid out, the counselor could pick out the underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Sometimes these can be a set of factors. The counselor then prioritizes among several factors which one should be addressed first. The client may also be referred to other professionals who the counselor deems to be more fitting in helping the client.


Establishing a goal in the counseling process is non negotiable. An intervention or solution of the problem should be laid out. More importantly, the client should be completely on board with the plans. The goal must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). The outcome goals or the objectives are clearly defined. Likewise, the process goals or the specific steps to achieve them are also stated. 

Last Stage

The last of the 3 stages of the counselling process is about turning the goals from the middle stage to actual results and keep the client committed to the goal. The proper termination of the sessions must also be done.

Implementing the plan

The client is putting actions independently. There is complete realization of what needs to be done. Internal motivation is present. The counselor takes a less active role. 

The counselor evaluates the process. If the plan fails, the counselor must find the reason why and correct it. Understandably, the motivation of the client might dwindle from time to time. The counselor however is there to give support. 


During the last stage of the counselling process measures are done to prepare for the session termination. This is an inevitable part of the counseling process. The helping relationship has to end at some point. The counselor must first assess for unresolved feelings or issues. The client must also be allowed to express his/her feeling towards the nearing conclusion of the counselling process. 

Termination may be called when the problem is already solved. This is evident when the client is helped towards self-confidence, better decision making, and/or has good coping behaviors. On the other hand, if something happened either to the counselor or the client and the sessions are not permissible, actions must be done for proper referral. 


The client may need to come back for follow-up as deemed by the counselor. This may be a series of interviews from time to time.

The 4 Stages of Counselling Process

Other authors would list 4 stages of the counseling process. First a good relationship between the client and counselor or therapist must be fostered. This process enables the client and the counselor or therapist to collaborate in assessing the plans/concerns and successfully implement them. Below are the 4 stages of the counselling process.

• Stage one: Developing a Relationship

• Stage two: Make an Informed Assessment

• Stage three: Establish Mutually Agreed upon Goals and Objectives 

• Stage four: Implementation Plan

The 5 Stages of Counselling Process

A counseling process can also be classified into 5 stages. Like the other models of the stages of counselling process, it starts with relationship building and then the gradual assessment of the client’s concern. The process would move into creating a goal and implementing them. Also, this ends with an evaluation and either a series of follow-ups, termination or even referral. 

• Stage one: Relationship building

• Stage two: Problem Assessment

• Stage three: Goal-setting

• Stage four: Intervention

• Stage five: Evaluation, Follow-up, Termination, or Referral

The 6 Stages of Counselling Process

A counseling session can involve all 6 stages of the counseling process. The priority of the counselor changes as the session moves forward. Typically, in the first half of the counselling process with a client, the counselor or therapist would focus on fostering a good counselor-client relationship. He or she then proceeds to assessment and diagnosis, and goal-setting with the client. In the second half, the counselor or therapist would place the emphasis on intervention and problem solving, termination and follow-up, and research and evaluation. Below is the list of the stages. 

• Stage one: Relationship building

• Stage two: Assessment and diagnosis

• Stage three: Formulation of counseling goals

• Stage four: Intervention and problem solving

• Stage five: Termination and follow-up

• Stage six: Research and evaluation

The 7 Stages of Counselling Process

Considered as a pillar of the person-centered approach in counselling and psychology, Carl Rogers proposed the 7 stages of counselling process. The client’ journey in self-growth can be gleaned below. This counselling process may look different than the previously mentioned model because it mainly describes the feelings and development of the client.

• Stage one: Resistant and defensive client

• Stage two: Client becomes less rigid and would start to discuss

• Stage three: Client talks about him/her, but as an object & avoids discussion of present events.

• Stage four: Client develops relationship with the counselor and would discuss deeper feelings 

• Stage five: Clients can express present emotions and are beginning to rely more on their own decision-making abilities and increasingly accepts more responsibility for their actions.

• Stage six: Client recognizes their own and others’ process towards self-actualization. This may signal the end of the counselling process.

• Stage seven: Client will likely be more fluid, self-accepting person who is open to the changes that life presents

Stages of Counselling Process PDF

In this section, useful external links to PDFs about the stages of the counselling process can be accessed. This will give the reader a more detailed understanding of the counseling process.

Introduction to Counselling: 

Introduction to Psychological Counselling

The Counselling Process

Counselling Process

Workbook 1 Counselling and Counselling Process: 

Counselling Process: Counselling Interview and Counselling Relationship: 


In this article, the stages of the counselling process were discussed and how it guides the session. Although different authors may break down the counseling process to different number of stages, the process remains largely unchanged. It is first important to foster a good counseling relationship. A stronger rapport allows information to flow and accordingly move from one stage to another. Also, the assessment of the client’s underlying problems is important. This would dictate if the client would commit to the goal or if intervention would be successful. Lastly, the termination of the session can be hard but steps can be done to prepare the client for it.

FAQs: Stages of Counselling Process

How do you know if a counselor is right for you?

You would know if a counselor is right for you if you genuinely like him/her, you feel understood, and you feel that your boundaries are respected. The right counselor for you would also make you feel challenged and someone who you can facilitate openly your anger or disappointments.

What should I do before my first counselling session?

What you should do before your first counselling session is to explore your reason why you want to undergo counseling initially. You should also write your personal concerns and the questions you intend to ask the counselor. Then make sure that you and the counselor are in agreement with the schedule, payment terms, and other requisites. Lastly, you should manage your expectations about the counselling process. It may not be as easy as you expect. It can be frustrating at times.

What are the five C’s of counselling?

The five 5 C’s include first, Counselling, a way of helping or supporting people to make goals and decisions. Second, Confidentiality or keeping the information between the counselor and the client [but may not be held when danger is posed]. Third, Care or acting for the best interest of the client. Fourth is Cost, counseling sessions have predetermined charges. Fifth, Concerns or the questions and problems the client has that needs to be addressed in the sessions.

How many sessions of Counselling do you need?

The number of counseling sessions needed by recommendation is 6 counselling sessions but this can be increased or decreased depending on the goals and level of distress.

What questions does a counselor ask?

The counselor would typically ask about what motivated the counselee to attend the sessions. What you feel about your problems or mood would likely be asked. Also, how you adapt or go about your problems might be explored. Usually, the counselor’s questions are centered on prompting clarity on the counselee’s experiences and situation.

What are the types of counselling?

The common types of counseling include the following: Marriage and family counselling, guidance and career counselling, rehabilitation counselling, mental health counselling, substance abuse counselling, and educational counselling.


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