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Delaware Technical Community College

DAC 225 – Drug and Alcohol Counseling II

Silja F. Walter, LCSW, CADC

Skill Builder: Reflections

General Information

 Skill dependent on active listening; demonstrates to the client that you are listening and
trying to understand his situation
 A way of checking rather than assuming that you know what is meant
 One way to show empathy, shows that you have an interest in what the person has to
 Pathway for engaging others in relationships, building trust, and fostering motivation to
 Encourages further explorations of the problem
 Appears easy, but takes hard work and skill to do well


 Actively listening to the client, and then responding with a statement that reflects the
essence of what the client said, or what you think the client meant.
 Reflect the client’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviors
 Statements are less likely than questions to evoke resistance
 Start off with simple reflections, the goal is to learn complex reflections well and use them
as a tool to promote change


 Reflections are statements, statements ending with a downward inflection (as opposed to
 Avoid “Do you mean…” or “What I hear you saying is….”. this can appear patronizing
 Simple Reflection: repeat the client’s words or an element of the statement (E.g. Client: “I
did not have a good day”; Counselor: “You had a bad day” or “You did not have a good
 Reflecting emotions: Noticing the emotion behind a behavior or statement, then saying it
out in the open for the client to hear (e.g. “You have tears in your eyes, you seem to be
sad/ frustrated, angry”)
 Complex Reflection: A hypothesis as to what the talker is getting at. Formulated as a
statement and not a question. Integrating underlying feeling, values, and unsaid portions.
(e.g. Client: “I do not care if I ever see my parents again. They have let me down so
many times anyway, I can deal on my own”. Counselor: “You are angry with your father
and your rather not have contact than go through the pain of loss again”
Stating/Questioning vs. Reflections

Statement/ Question Reflection

What I hear you say is that you are having a You had a bad day
bad day
So you don’t want to be around those people You would like to choose your friends more
again? wisely
Do you mean that you don’t want to be here You do not like the structure of treatment and
in treatment? would rather determine your own schedule
You don’t need to cry, be happy! Thinking about the situation is difficult for you,
it makes you sad and brings tears to your eyes