Summaries are basically longer paraphrases. Using them allows you to bring together significant parts of the session in an organised way. They are useful as they give some coherence and order to what the client has said and provide an overview of what has happened so far. Summarising is a useful way to:

  • Clarify content and feelings. Clients do not present their complicated issues and concerns in an organised way. You want to be sure that you have grasped the significant points and need to check you are following the client’s meaning accurately
  • Review the work. Summarising gives clients the opportunity to correct misunderstandings, or to add to or reconsider what they have said
  • End a session. When summarising at the end of a session, you can confirm what the client has agreed to do before the next session, or what they want to continue to explore next time
  • Prioritise and focus. Some clients need more help than others to identify the important issues for them and how to prioritise them. Whilst listening to them, you receive lots of information from them and will undoubtedly form hypotheses about what the client is saying and what they are leaving out. You will see patterns or themes emerging

Move the helping process forward. You need to make judgements about what direction the conversation might take, in order to move forwards. There are some times, however, when you want to move forward by introducing a new focus.