Summarising In Counseling (a Comprehensive Overview) | OptimistMinds (2023)

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Page last updated: 13/09/2022

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In this brief guide, we will be discussing the topic: summarising in counseling. We will be exploring the meaning of summarising, its difference from paraphrasing, the steps involved in summarising, the need, and the way to summarise the beginning and end of a session. By the end, we will also be answering some questions related to summarising and counseling skills.

Summarising in counseling

Summarising is one of the skills in counseling used by the therapist to accommodate the feelings, emotions, and thoughts of the client in a nutshell. In other words, summarising is used when the therapist wants to condense, crystallize, the main points that the client conveyed through his words and body language.

Summarising is almost like a recap of a lesson that is already taught. The therapist provides the client with a chance to reflect on their last session and the lessons they might want to take away front their previous sessions, before continuing with the following sessions. Summarising is carried out at the beginning and the end of a session, mostly.

If one is to give an accurate definition for summarising, then it would be best to choose the one by Feltham and Dryden. According to Feltham and Dryden, “summarising is accurately and succinctly reflecting back to the client, from time to time, within and across sessions, the substance of what she has expressed.

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The importance of summarising

th e summarising skill used by the therapist in a counseling session helps both the therapist and client to move forward sans confusions and misunderstandings. It reveals the current standing position of the process of therapy and allows the client to explore the varied dimensions of their progress to the given point.

In summarising, the therapist aims to “reflect” to the client, the important and desirable points of a session. It makes the client feel understood and encourages them to open up and talk about their issues comprehensively and with clarity to the therapist in the further sessions. Summaries of any kind are useful for anyone, to gain clarity and insight into the subject matter of concern.

In counseling, summarising aids in the following ways:

  • Accurate and efficient clarification of the emotions for both the counselor and the client. This helps both the parties to understand the underlying emotional state involved in each session and its influence on the progress of the session.
  • A complete review of the work done so far, especially by the client himself/herself. The client is the core element of the process of counseling, who has to take a major effort in facing their issues at hand and coming to terms with them. Hence, summarising comes as a great aid for the clients for the required progress in each session.
  • Summarising help in bringing each session to a closure, without leaving loose ends or unnecessary assumptions. It helps in drawing together the main threads of the discussions between the client and the therapist.
  • Summarising also helps in initiating a subsequent session, if the situation and timing are appropriate.
  • Usually, clients arrive in counseling with a series of scattered and vague thoughts and emotions. However, as the sessions proceed, the process of summarising helps the client in bringing about order and understanding of their vague emotions and thoughts which they could not comprehend in the beginning. It helps them to prioritize these thoughts and emotions and make their way through them, slowly.
  • Most importantly, summarising is the skill that enables the counseling process to move forward. It provides a wholesome meaning to the counseling relationship and the nature of each session.
  • It enables the client to open up to new perspectives. When the therapist summarises each session, it’s put forward in a slightly different manner, to allow the client to reflect on their words and emotions expressed in the session.
  • Summarising helps the therapists to provide a specific structure to the counseling process that is especially important for those clients who find it difficult to keep their focus on one topic or area of issue.
  • Summarising gives a good orientation towards the type of homework that needs to be given to the client and also an idea about the future sessions and what they will comprise.

How to summarize

The following steps can be followed to summarize a session:

  • Try to summarize at the end of a session
  • Confirm the authenticity of the summary with the client and once that is done, decide the focus of the next session, and assign homework for the client for the next session
  • Ask the client to give their version of the summary for the session to make them feel more involved and eager in the process of summarising.
  • Jot down the points added by the client during the process of summarising.
Summarising In Counseling (a Comprehensive Overview) | OptimistMinds (3)

Summarising vs paraphrasing

Summarising and paraphrasing are not the same. They differ in their structure, purpose, and timing. A summary is provided for the client to reflect on their words and emotions and to let them take the lead. However, paraphrasing on the other hand is done to clarify and move forward in the session without any kind of assumptions, confusion, or misunderstandings.

A summary usually covers a longer time period than a paraphrase. Summarising is usually used at the end of a session, before winding up the session. paraphrasing, on the other hand, is usually used during the session to move the session forward smoothly.

The end of a session

Summarising is the key process for winding up the session. It brings the session to a clear close, without any misconceptions. It is an opportunity provided to the client for clearing any confusion and to make sense of the happenings of the session. It also provides the counselor with an assurance for their efforts taken and to continue with the subsequent sessions.

The summary at the end of a session must match the material of the session and must help the client feel understood and at peace. It allows the client to deny something if they feel is not right or give a better modulation to the words used by the therapist in the summary, if the need arises. This leads to a complete realignment of the session and also shapes the future ones.

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Summarising should begin around five to ten minutes before the session comes to a close. The therapist should hint to the client that the allotted time is nearing a close and start with the process of summarising, once the client is ready to begin. Make sure to include the most relevant thoughts, emotions, and opinions expressed by the client and how they perceive them, int the summary.

The beginning of a session

Summarising can also be used at the beginning of a session. It helps the counselor to gain clarity on the direction of the session and it enables the client to decide on the themes of discussion for the current session. The therapist can put forward a summary comprising the themes of previous sessions and how far have the duo come to manage them.

Summarising at the beginning also allows the client to feel settled before the actual session starts. It gives them an idea of their current standing and what they could expect from the ongoing session. This enhances the strength and consolidation of the therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist.

While summarising at the beginning of a session, the counselor/therapist must keep in mind to give the client complete freedom to take the lead for the session and decide the key theme of discussion. They should not feel evaluated or judged while the process of summarising is going on. This form of summarising is mostly used by person-centered counselors and therapists since it does not go against any of their core principles.

The counselor can also jot down, in a notepad the points brought up by the client at the end of the summary, which can be used for the next session as well.


In this article, we discussed the topic: summarising in counseling. We looked at the meaning, nature, importance, steps involved, and conduction of the process of summarising during the beginning and end of a session. We also examined the difference between paraphrasing and summarising.

FAQs: summarising in counseling

Why is summarising an important skill?

Summarising is an important skill in the field of academic writing. It allows you to grasp the most relevant points from a source of the text and rewrite them, using your own words. It lets you create a brief version of the original content and for quick reference. A good summary also indicates your ability to evaluate your understanding of the source and to turn it around the way you want it.

What are the five counseling skills?

The core counseling skills are as follows:

Attending( refers to completely attending to the client and their issues without getting lost in thoughts or being in dissonance).
Silence(aids in providing control to the content, pace, and objectives of the sessions).
Reflecting and paraphrasing (helps the counselor to keep away misunderstandings with the client and to help the client reflect on their words and feelings expressed during the sessions?
Clarification and the use of questions (helps the counselor in asking open questions to clarify the feelings of the client)
Building good rapport (helps in building a sense of connection with the client)
Focusing (helps the client to decide the key theme to be discussed during a session. It helps to filter out the unnecessary or the less important issues)
Summarising (provides a meaningful and clarified summary of what the says during the sesion)
Immediacy. ( helps to focus on the immediate environment or in other words, the here and now relationship between the client and the therapist)
Active listening (the client feels heard and understood by the therapist)

What are some counseling techniques?

Some of the most popularly used techniques are as follows:

Psychodynamic counseling: this is one of the most well-known approaches to counseling and is based on the Freudian theory of psychodynamics. It focuses on the development of strong therapist-client alliances.

Interpersonal counseling: interpersonal counseling is mostly diagnosis based and the disorder of the client is considered as a medical condition that requires appropriate intervention. The focus of this technique is on the attachment of the mental health outcomes to the well-being of the client. It is a time-limited counseling approach that helps the clients to identify the environmental stressors that are causing their issues.

Humanistic counseling: this approach was developed by Carl Rogers and works on the belief that humans have an innate ability and willingness to be self-actualized. It encourages curiosity, humility, intuition, and genuine acceptance. It is also called client-centered therapy, which helps the client realize their full potential.

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What is summarizing in counseling? ›

In a summarization, the counselor combines two or more of the client's thoughts, feelings or behaviors into a general theme. Summarization is usually used as a skill during choice points of a counseling interview in which the counselor wants to draw connections between two or more topics.

Why is summarizing so important in counseling? ›

When summarising, the counsellor is 'reflecting back' the main points of the session so that the client has the opportunity to recap, and to 'correct' the counsellor if any parts of the summary feel inaccurate. Summaries are therefore useful for: clarifying emotions for both the counsellor and the client.

How do I get better at Summarising counselling? ›

If you have difficulty thinking of a way to summarize the session, ask the client in the last few minutes of the session, “If you were to summarize what happened in our session today, what would you say?” Listen to the client carefully to see how they respond, and then make connections between their summary and what ...

Why is paraphrasing and summarizing important in counselling? ›

A counsellor can encourage a client to continue to talk, open up more freely and explore issues in greater depth by providing accurate responses through encouraging, paraphrasing and summarising. Responding in this way informs the client that the counsellor has accurately heard what they have been saying.

What is the purpose of Summarising? ›

The purpose of summarizing is to briefly present the key points of a theory or work in order to provide context for your argument/thesis. Read the work first to understand the author's intent. This is a crucial step because an incomplete reading could lead to an inaccurate summary.

What is the importance of summarizing? ›

Why teach summarizing? It helps students learn to determine essential ideas and consolidate important details that support those ideas. It enables students to focus on key words and phrases of an assigned text that are worth remembering.

What is the most important aspect of summarizing? ›

Make sure your sentences are condensed, and that they use your original language and sentence structure. Follow the order of ideas in the original text. Make sure your own point of view is purely objective (reporting content of the text, only). Opinions should not appear in a summary.

What are Summarising skills? ›

Summarising and paraphrasing are essential skills in academic work. They involve extracting the key points from a source text, turning these key points into an abbreviated version (a summary) of the original, and, importantly, expressing this information in your own words.

What are the 5 easy techniques in summarizing? ›

The Five W's, One H strategy relies on six crucial questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. These questions make it easy to identify the main character, important details, and main idea. Who is the story about? What did they do?

What are the 3 summarizing techniques? ›

  • Lesson Summarizing Techniques.
  • Written / Journal Summary -
  • Oral summary -
  • Exit question summary –

What is the most effective way of summarizing? ›

Try these steps for writing summaries: Select a short passage (about one to four sentences) that supports an idea in your paper. Read the passage carefully to fully understand it. Take notes about the main idea and supporting points you think you should include in your summary.

How do you summarize a session? ›

Your session summary should follow this general structure:
  1. Introduction: One to two sentences that explain: ...
  2. Actions include: brainstormed, talked about possible essay topics, developed research question/problem, made a reverse outline, worked with evidence, analyzed an argument, worked on grammar, style, etc.

What is Summarising in? ›

To summarise is simply to identify the most important information from a text. You are probably summarising every day without thinking about it. A summary is always much shorter than the original text, but there is more to summarising than simply copying some sentences from a source and leaving out others.

Which of the following is most accurate about the usefulness of summaries? ›

Which of the following is most accurate about the usefulness of summaries? They can bring together scattered elements during a session so that the client can see the "bigger picture" more clearly.

What are the two aims of summarizing? ›

A summary has two aims: (1) to reproduce the overarching ideas in a text, identifying the general concepts that run through the entire piece, and (2) to express these overarching ideas using precise, specific language.

What is an example of summarizing? ›

Summarizing is defined as taking a lot of information and creating a condensed version that covers the main points. An example of summarizing is writing a three or four-sentence description that touches upon the main points of a long book. Present participle of summarize.

What are the 4 types of summarization? ›

The main types of informative summaries are: outlines, abstracts, and synopses. Outlines present the plan or the “skeleton” of a written material. Outlines show the order and the relation between the parts of the written material. An outline of a chapter about summarisation.

What are the four steps in summarizing? ›

Use a four-step process to write a summary of a reading.
  1. Step 1: Identify the main idea of the reading. ...
  2. Step 2: Identify the supporting details. ...
  3. Step 3: Identify the author's purpose. ...
  4. Step 4: Write a summary of the reading. ...
  5. Step 1: Identify the main idea of the reading.

What are the 7 steps in summarizing? ›

To do this effectively, consider following these steps:
  • Reread the original text. ...
  • Make a list of key points. ...
  • Note supporting evidence. ...
  • Start with a context sentence. ...
  • Describe the key concept of the text. ...
  • Follow up with supporting evidence. ...
  • Write a thesis statement.

What are the six steps of summarizing? ›

How to write a summary in 6 steps
  • Read small chunks of text at a time. ...
  • Highlight and rewrite as you read. ...
  • Make sure you understand the text. ...
  • From your memory, reconstruct the author's main argument as if you are teaching it to a six-year-old. ...
  • Match your summary to your highlights. ...
  • Combine your smaller summaries.
31 Jan 2022

What are the 5 parts of a summary? ›

These five components are: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. These essential elements keep the story running smoothly and allow the action to develop in a logical way that the reader can follow.

What is the difference between paraphrasing and summarizing in Counselling? ›

Paraphrasing means rephrasing text or speech in your own words, without changing its meaning. Summarizing means cutting it down to its bare essentials. You can use both techniques to clarify and simplify complex information or ideas.

What points you should keep in mind while summarizing? ›

A good summary should be comprehensive, concise, coherent, and independent. These qualities are explained below: A summary must be comprehensive: You should isolate all the important points in the original passage and note them down in a list.

How do you summarize in your own words? ›

To summarize, you must read a passage closely, finding the main ideas and supporting ideas. Then you must briefly write down those ideas in a few sentences or a paragraph. It is important to understand the difference between a summary and a paraphrase. A paraphrase is simply a rewriting of a passage in your own words.

Which is the best definition of summary? ›

A summary is a brief statement or restatement of main points, especially as a conclusion to a work: a summary of a chapter.

› about › slc › writing › sources › s... ›

Academic writing requires you to research the work of other scholars, develop your own ideas on the topic of your research, and then to think about how your ide...

Summarizing | College Writing › chapter › summarizing › chapter › summarizing
When you summarize material from a source, you both condense and restate the main points concisely in your own words. This technique is appropriate when only th...

Summarizing | Writing Advice › researching › summarize › researching › summarize
Summarizing a text, or distilling its essential concepts into a paragraph or two, is a useful study tool as well as good writing practice. A summary has two aim...

Whats the definition of summarizing? ›

summarized; summarizing. transitive verb. : to tell in or reduce to a summary. intransitive verb. : to make a summary.

What does the summarizing mean? ›

to express the most important facts or ideas about something or someone in a short and clear form: I'll just summarize the main points of the argument in a few words.

What is summarizing and examples? ›

Summarizing is defined as taking a lot of information and creating a condensed version that covers the main points. An example of summarizing is writing a three or four-sentence description that touches upon the main points of a long book.

What is a summarizing technique? ›

Summarizing is how we take larger selections of text and reduce them to their bare essentials: the gist, the key ideas, the main points that are worth noting and remembering. Summarizing one of the hardest strategies for students to grasp and fully learn, and it is one of the hardest strategies for you to teach.

What is good summarizing? ›

A good summary should be comprehensive, concise, coherent, and independent. These qualities are explained below: A summary must be comprehensive: You should isolate all the important points in the original passage and note them down in a list.

What are the 3 steps of summarizing? ›

Read. Annotate. Think. To summarize, write the main ideas of the text and restate them in your own words in your own writing style.

What are the 3 summarizing? ›

There are three important summarization techniques. They are selection, rejection and substitution.

What are the 7 steps in summarizing? ›

To do this effectively, consider following these steps:
  • Reread the original text. ...
  • Make a list of key points. ...
  • Note supporting evidence. ...
  • Start with a context sentence. ...
  • Describe the key concept of the text. ...
  • Follow up with supporting evidence. ...
  • Write a thesis statement.

› summarizing ›

Define summarizing. Summarizing as a verb means Summarizing is defined as taking a lot of information and creating a condensed version that covers the main poin...
Summarization systems can be categorized based on whether they produce their summaries by extracting or abstracting information from the full texts. Abstraction...


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