Basic Counseling Skills for Community Leaders

Basic skills are listening, leading, questioning, focusing, reflecting and challenging.


Milan – A community leader is a person who leads a community with a heart. A heart that listens, guides, teaches but most specially a friend. A leader is a person who gives community service! Oftentimes, a community leader faces challenges, community conflicts and personal delicate situations and problems of community members. But a community leader is only human who faces as well personal conflicts and becomes weak. Thus, a leader skills need to be nurtured and enhanced through undergoing self-formation to adapt continues developmental, cultural, situational evolutions. 

How can a leader help when brokenness push members say: “Wala naman kayong magawa!”, “Makikinig ka ba?”, “Problema ko ito!”, “Nakakahiya.”, “Pabigat lang ito sa inyo!”, “Akala ko ikaw ang makakalutas sa problema ko!”, these are some of many other phrases a leader hears in dealing with the community. What role do you think a leader has in these situations? 

In order to support your community, you have to be true to yourself. Become the change you want to see by working on yourself first,” recommends to all leaders Dr. Maria Teodora S. Dizon, trainor on Basic Counseling Skills-Training of Community Leaders in North Italy held in Milan last October 23, 2016 which was wholly organized by the Philippine Consulate General-Milan under its Gender and Development Program with the objective to help Filipino leaders be equipped  with the necessary psychosocial training and skills to assist the Filipino community for critical incidents that require psychosocial work.

Dr. Dizon is a Psychologist and Founding partner, Director at Better Steps Psychology, Inc.

According to Dr. Dizon, dealing with community conflicts, critical situations and youth formation a community needs a leader counselor who she calls Peer Support Worker. A Peer Support Worker should possess congruency, genuineness, unconditional positive regard and empathy.  Being congruent means being true to oneself. One’s belief, needs, desires, dreams, limits, faith forms being a genuine person. If a leader is genuine a community member is able to build confidence to open up freely any problem. A PSW should listen without judging and without hidden agenda.  A PSW should understand each particular situation of a community member in difficulty and experiences its pain. Empathized with the person. Above all a PSW should respects ethics to protect the person’s privacy and persona.

Supporting a community means knowing how to communicate. Communication is the main tool in counseling. It should be sent, received and acknowledged well to help cope better with life’s circumstances in making and executing correct decisions. Therefore a Peer Support Worker: 

1. Cannot make decisions for the counselee.

2. Cannot make promises to the counselee.

3. Do not let the counselee think that we know better than them.

4. Do not let the counselee get too dependent on us.

5. Avoid to over compartmentalize.

6. Is not a blamer.

7. Don’t make predictions.

8. Don’t give orders

9. Don’t overshare.

10. Is not superfluous.

 A Peer Support Worker instead leads the counselee to the right questions. It enables to read the walls and problems of the person in need.

Ask, ask and ask to arrive at the problem. Help the person create a vision,” reiterated Dr. Dizon during the training. 

But be keen enough to learn specially the counselee’s non-verbal language. Everything we feel, see, hear is 93% non-verbal communication. Only 7% is verbal/words). Watch for facial expression, eye contact, posture, hand, feet, body movements. Every gesture is communicating something. As PSW , listen with your eyes, “ continued Dr. Dizon.

Summing up, basic skills are:  listening, leading,  questioning, focusing, reflecting,  challenging.

But what are skills if you are not sincere? Peer Support Worker makes statement based on insight from verbalized feelings and non-verbal body language. Ask open-minded questions to clarify emotions and underlying motivations like “I’m confused, tama ba ng pagkakaintindi ko na….”. Identify the intensity of the emotion. Focus to the problem to find the central wound that hurts most.

Every person has the capacity for empathy. Because empathy comes from understanding.

Don’t counsel when you are at your low point. Don’t give what you don’t have.  Effective leadership is being a friend with your life,” advises and concludes Dr. Dizon.

by Nonieta Adena

Filcom Genova President

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