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The Microskills Hierarchy

1. Ethics, multicultural competence, and wellness
2. Attending behavior
3. Open and closed questions
4. Client observation skills
5. Encouraging, paraphrasing, and summarizing
6. Reflection of feeling
7. The five-stage interview structure
8. Confrontation
9. Focusing
10. Reflection of meaning and interpretation/reframe
11. Influencing skills and strategies
12. Skill Integration
13. Determining personal style and theory

Questions: Begin open questions with often useful who, what, when, where, and why. Closed questions may start with do, is, or are. Could, can, or would questions are considered open, but have the additional advantage of being somewhat closed, thus giving more power to the client, who can more easily say that he or she doesn't want to respond

Predicted Result: Clients will give more detail and talk more in response to open questions. Closed questions may provide specific information.

Reflection of Feeling: Identify the key emotions of a client and feed them back to clarify affective experience.

Predicted Result: Clients will experience and understand their emotional states more clearly and talk in depth about feelings.

Interviewing, Counseling, and Psychotherapy

These are interrelated processes that sometimes overlap. Interviewing may be considered the more basic and is often associated with information gathering and providing necessary data to help clients resolve issues. Coaching operates from a strength framework and helps plan for immediate and long-term change. Counseling focuses on normal developmental concerns, whereas psychotherapy emphasizes treatment of more deep-seated issues.


Microskills are the single communication skill units of the interview. They are taught one at a time to ensure mastery of basic interviewing competencies.

Microskills Hierarchy

The hierarchy organizes microskills into a systematic framework for the eventual integration of skills into the interview in a natural fashion. The microskills rest on a foundation of ethics, multicultural competence, and wellness. The attending and listening skills are followed by confrontation, focusing influencing skills, and eventual skill integration.

Microskills Teaching Model

Five steps are used to teach the single skills of interviewing:
1. warm up to the skill
2. view the skill in action
3. read and learn about broader uses of the skill
4. practice
5. generalize learning from the interview to daily life
The model is useful to teach social skills to clients in the interview.

Relationship -- Story and Strengths -- Goals -- Restory -- Action

Our first task is to help clients tell their stories. To facilitate development, we need to draw out narratives of their personal assets. With a positive foundation, clients may learn to write new stories with the possibility of new actions. James Lanier reminds us that language stressing a problem or disorder may get in the way of effective interviewing and counseling.


Achieving intentionality is a central goal of the cultural intentionality interviewing process. Intentionality is acting with a sense of capability and deciding from among a range of alternative actions. The intentional individual has more than one action, thought, or behavior to choose from in responding to life situations.

Cultural Intentionality

The culturally intentional individual can generate alternatives from different vantage points, using a variety of skills and personal qualities within a culturally appropriate framework.

Intentional Prediction

When you use specific skills in the interview, you can predict what the client is likely to say next. However, each person is different and often will not behave exactly as predicted. You will shift style and change skills to continue the interview smoothly.

Theory and Microskills

All counseling theories use the microskills but in varying patterns with differing goals. Mastery of the skills will facilitate your becoming able to work with many theoretical alternatives. The microskills framework can also be considered a theory in itself in which interviewer and client work together to enable the construction of new stories, accompanied by changes in thought and action.

Research validation

The microskills model has been validated by more than 450 databased studies and over 40 years of clinical practice. The skills can be learned, and they do have an impact on clients, but they must be practiced constantly or the user will lose them.

Brain Research and Neuroscience

Interviewing and counseling will be increasingly informed by research in this area in the coming years and you will want to keep abreast of new developments. Of particular importance is neuroplasticity. "Neuroplasticity can result in the wholesale remodeling of neural networks...a brain can rewrite itself". Successful interviews may be expected to help clients develop new and useful connections.

You, Microskills, and the Interview

Microskills are useful only if they harmonize with your own natural style in the interview.

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