This is an excerpt from The Popular Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Ron Hawkins. We hope you enjoy this insightful information and that it will enrich you in your counseling business. 


Non-verbal Communication

Ryan A. Carboneau, M. A.


Research has found that up to 90% of communication is based on nonverbal cues. Wright (2000) said that communication is “the link that creates a relationship between people” (p. 61). Counselors are trained to discern nonverbal communication in clients. There is more than what the counselee is saying, and this information often lies beneath the surface and remains undetected (Clinton & Ohlschlager, 2002). Counselors must learn to distinguish between what clients say and how they act (Cormier & Cormier, 1991). Bringing those two worlds together and attempting to read between the lines will help bring congruence to clients’ lives and help them see the discontinuity between their words and actions.

Description. Nonverbal communication may include a number of different gestures or movements by the client. These are also known as mixed messages. Kinesics is the study of the nonverbal cues expressed by the client’s body language (Clinton & Ohlschlager, 2002), including a wide range of behaviors, such as eye movements, fidgeting, tone of voice, or sitting with arms folded and legs crossed. Every day, counselors interpret hundreds of nonverbal communications in personal and professional relationships. To help clients change, counselors make mental notes of behaviors and decipher what they mean.

Understanding Non-verbal Communication. “It is mutual understanding that leads to good communication” (Eggerichs, 2007). Due to the nature of therapeutic relationships, clients often lie in order to protect themselves from perceived or potential harm. Fortunately for the counselor, however, nonverbal cues speak volumes of truth. The eyes are the windows to the soul. They give us a glimpse into the internal world of our clients. Clients may look away, stare blankly, look up and down, be unfocused, or look intently at something, and their eyes often express unspoken feelings and perceptions. The head and face also communicate clearly with a move of the eyebrow, a grimace of the lips, a smile, or a look away to let the counselor know what is being internalized. Body is also important. People can turn away, appear relaxed or tense, fidget or tap their foot, or any number of other actions. When counselors study the meaning of these nonverbal cues, they get a clearer picture of their clients’ hearts and minds.

Conclusion. God gives many counselors the gift of discernment to reveal hidden issues that clients attempt to conceal from God and others. Congruence is one of Rogers’ three necessary conditions, and it is one of the most important tasks of the counselor (Rogers, 1957; Cormier & Cormier, 1991). By accurately reading and interpreting nonverbal communication, we take steps to bring together the spoken and unspoken truths in a client’s life to facilitate real growth.


Clinton, T. & Ohlschlager, G. (2002). Competent Christian counseling: Foundations and   practice of compassionate soul care (Vol. 1). New York, NY: Waterbrook.

Cormier, W. H. & Cormier, L. S. (1991). Interviewing strategies for helpers: Fundamental skills and cognitive behavioral interventions (3rd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Eggerichs, E. (2007). Cracking the communication code: The secret to speaking your mate’s language. Nashville, TN: Nelson.

Rogers, C. (1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 21, 95 – 103.

Wright, H. N. (2000). Communication: Key to your marriage. Ventura, CA: Regal Books.



Excerpt from The Popular Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling, by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Ron  Hawkins. Purchase the book here!

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