Paraphrasing in mental health


Paraphrasing in mental health

Paraphrasing in mental health

Paraphrasing in mental health can be an effective communication skill, or in other words, paraphrasing can really help a lot with communicating with a person experiencing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders. Paraphrasing is a technique, or what is known as a micro-skill used by counsellors and other helpers such as psychologists. Micro-skills are simply specific techniques used by helpers to communicate more effectively. This is important because people with mental health issues generally feel that they need to be heard, or if they don’t necessarily feel that way, they can at least quite often find benefit in feeling heard and understood (remember that people with mental health problems still unfortunately face other issues such as stigmatization and discrimination). Paraphrasing is a technique which will enhance a feeling of being heard and understood.

But, what is paraphrasing? The essence of paraphrasing is reflecting back to the person in need (for example, someone with depression while they are talking) the really important and significant content (or words) of what they are saying. Key words or words that are similar are reflected back to them but not necessarily repeating word for word, or sounding like a gabby parrot. The most important information is re-expressed in a clearer way and basically reflected back to the person BUT in the helper’s OWN words (Geldard, 1998). Another term sometimes used for paraphrasing is “reflection of content”

An example could be:

Julie who has an anxiety disorder:- ” I can’t get anything done. I feel awful and nothing is going right. I always seem to be in a hurry, I have no time for myself and nobody seems to even appreciate what I do anyway. My anxiety is just getting worse and worse. I’m gonna crack!”

A short simple paraphrase could be:

“It seems that things are pretty difficult at the moment”


“It sounds like getting things done the way you want is a real problem just now and it’s a lot to cope with”

Paraphrasing is a bit different to summarising and it is also different to reflecting a person’s FEELINGS. It is the CONTENT of what they are saying that is rebounded or reflected back to the person in the hope, or with the purpose, that they will feel heard/acknowledged and understood as to the “theme” of what they are saying.

Using paraphrasing in mental health is also actually crucial in person-centred approaches to support and care. Person-centred approaches is the way of the future, as far as delivery of mental health services by mental health providers. Person-centred approaches uphold a sincere appreciation of listening to others. To listen to what people are saying, including using skills such as paraphrasing, is to keep listening (Thompson, Kilbane & Sanderson, 2008, p. 139) and that it what is needed in supporting people with mental health challenges.

Thank you for visiting Beyond My Label.



Thompson, J., Kilbane, J., Sanderson, H., & ebrary, I. (2008). Person centred practice for professionals. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill.

Geldard, D. 1998, Basic Personal Counselling, Third Edition, Star Printing, Erskineville, NSW.

Recommended website for where to find help on the north side of Brisbane: My Mental Health.

Paraphrasing in mental health

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