Christian Counseling Skill of Summarizing

Using the Christian Counseling/Facilitation Skill of Summarizing Effectively

It is crucial for a counselor to use the skill of summarizing. Counseling session will not run smooth without knowing when and how to use this skill. The following are some of the reasons a counselor/facilitator might need to use summarizing:

  • To get a group member to move on.
  • When a group is bottled up with no where to go.
  • When group members are arguing over a point/group is out of control.
  • When moving to a new subject.
  • Model summarizing as an exercise to get everyone involved.
  • To be able to pray for group members that need it.
  • To end a group with a sense of closure.

It is not productive to simply interrupt a person who is processing. When done right, and with the right sense of timing, summarizing will appear to be an extension of what that person is saying. A facilitator needs to engage in the active listening process to summarize effectively. This skill is reflecting back content and feelings to sum up the essence of what a person is trying to say.

Summarizing should go something like this: A group member is talking about their father and having all kinds of mixed emotions about it. They can't seem to get any closure and so they talk on and on, sometimes repeating themselves. The facilitator needs to jump in at the appropriate time and say something like, “Joe it sounds like you love your father but at the same time it makes you angry that he never listens to you.”

If done right, Joe will give a sigh of relief and say “yes, that is exactly how I feel.” This will allow him to stop and take a look at his feelings. Now the group can now move on in whatever way it needs to.

When a group is bottled up with no where to go, this skill will allow the facilitator to move on to a new subject without leaving the impression that closure is not possible. Reflect back to the group what has just transpired. Sum it up and eloquently move into a new direction.

Sometimes a group gets out of control and everyone is arguing over their point of view. A good way to get the group to refocus is to summarize all points of view. By doing this everyone feels validated and the group can move on. Of course, a facilitator needs to use their group skills to move on at the right time.

Summarizing is a great tool to model so that every group member can summarize their own group experience. Everyone gets a turn and it is a good way to end the group. A good final summarization in a Christian group would be to note who might need special prayer. This allows for Godly healing to take place.

Written by: Sherry Colby