5 Effective Communication Skills


Something that people often bring into my therapy room is that they want to communicate better. You may ask, “what does that even mean? Well, I am going to tell you exactly what that means in 5 effective communication skills. To start off, I think we need to start with the basics and discuss what communication even means.  “Communication: a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” (Merriam Webster).  In really people terms it’s how we talk to our spouse, our kids and even our boss. This would also include the great amount of nonverbal communication that we do. Ever ask yourchild if they ate that cookie you left on the counter? They shake their head, but this little smile comes across their face and the cookie that you had been saving is gone; that is nonverbal communication. Other nonverbal communication is eye-contact, tone, body posture or gestures. Now that we know WHAT communication is, let's figure out how to do this effectively. 

5 Effective Communication Skills

  1. Active listening- this means to listen with your body giving full attention to the person that is speaking. It means to be alert while the other person is talking. It requires the person listening to be interested and to fully concentrate on what the person talking is saying. This also includes nonverbal communication (eye contact, facial expressions, nodding, etc.)

  2. Asking questions- when you are in conversation with someone, asking questions show that you are interested in what the other person is saying. This can include open-ended questions such as questions that start with how, what, where, who, when or “can you tell me more about that?” Or even closed ended questions like “Are you feeling better today?”  “Can I help you with that?” or “Have you completed your homework?”

  3. Clarifying and summarizing- this is to ensure what you are hearing is being heard correctly. It is also helpful in making sure the person talking is getting their point across clearly.  “So, what you’re saying is ________?”  “Do you mean you want to go out to dinner?” or “Did I understand you when you said…?”

  4. Being present- being in the moment with the person you are communicating will provide a better chance to understand and empathize with the person you are communicating with.  Your time and attention is focused on to the person that is speaking. (Put down that phone)

  5. Being clear- speaking clearly and concisely is effective because then there is little room to misunderstand or misinterpret what is being conveyed. Say what you want _____ “I would like it if we went to the movies” instead of “Sure would be nice if we might go to the movies”. This last sentence is not as direct, and communication is always better if the listener doesn’t have to guess at what you are thinking or feeling. Tell that person.  It’s only in the movies when people can read minds. In real life, being direct is the key.

By Courtney Whetstone, AMFT

Courtney Whetstone, AMFT is an associate Marriage and Family Therapists who works with children and adolescents, couples, and in crisis intervention. I have experience in many areas, including family reunification and parenting. Courtney works in both the Riverside and Murrieta office.

To contact Courtney or any of our therapists please call 951-778-0230.


Parenting X.jpg

For many of us we are taught that parenting is as natural as putting proper clothing or grabbing an umbrella when it is raining. However, parenting is not an automatic in our lives but instead learned behavior. Our children were not born with a how-to-manual; darn it. Therefore, we must learn how to become loving, caring and effective parents.

According to Webster Unabridged Dictionary parent is termed as a protector or guardian; further it states that a parent as one who act as parent of; to parent children with both love and discipline, and/or a person who brings up and cares for another.

That interpretation of a parent fails to give one the method involved in caring for another or parenting. So just how are we to know how to raise our child/children? Most of us use what our parents taught us. But is that enough?

The three major goals of parenting include:

  1. Ensuring children’s health and safety

  2. Preparing children for life as productive adults

  3. Transmitting cultural values (Encyclopedia of Psychology)

Thank goodness we have some innate abilities or we would really be in trouble.

Are single parent households uncommon?

  • No-over the past 20 years single parent homes in US increased

  • Single parent households have become more common than nuclear families (both mother/father)

  • Nuclear families consist of father, mother and children; sometimes grandparents raising grandchildren

  • Modern family structure households headed by fathers only, mothers only or grandparent only; as well as aunts, uncles, and sometimes adult siblings

 Now to revisit the mechanisms of parenting:

  • Parents and caretakers make sure children are healthy and safeequip them with the skills and resources to succeed as adults, and transmit basic cultural values to them.

  • Parents and caretakers offer their children love, acceptance, appreciation, encouragement, and guidance.

  • Parents and caretakers provide the most intimate context for the nurturing and protection of children as they develop their personalities and identities and as they mature physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially.

  • Information courtesy of American Psychological Association
    Read more on Positive Parenting

 What are the benefits of positive parenting?

Positive parent-child relationships provide a foundation for children’s, learning for which they bring into their adulthood.  With parents’ sensitive, responsive, and predictable care, young children develop the skills they need to succeed in life.  Early parent-child relationships have powerful effects on children’s emotional well-being (Dawson & Ashman, 2000), their basic coping and problem-solving abilities, and future capacity for relationships (Lerner & Castellino, 2002). From Positive Parent-Child-Relationships. 

4-Key points to positive parenting success:

  • An Effective Parent
    your words and actions influence your child the way you want them too.

  • A Consistent Parent
    you follow similar principles or practices in your words and actions.

  • An Active Parent
    you participate in your child’s life.

  • An Attentive Parent
    You pay attention to your child’s life and observe what goes on.

What is community and how important is it?

  • Instructing child(ren) in social skills

  • Teaching child(ren) how to share

  • Instructing child(ren) about fairness (age appropriate)

    • Important when engaging play dates

  • Model, Model your best selves

    • Child (ren) do-as-one-do and not what one say!

Hey parents, let us remember that parenting skills are not automatic nor does a how-to-manual magically appear at the birth of the child. Parenting is largely learned behaviors as well as information passed from one generation to another.  It is okay to ask questions, read a book or two, or enroll in a parenting class, as this is ok for moms, dads, grandparents, or any designated care provider.  It’s important to strived to become an effective parent, practice consistency, be active in your child/children’s life, and do more listening than talking. If you need more help on parenting or building a great relationship with your child, call me and I can help. I work in both locations, Murrieta and Riverside.

by Valerie Fluker, Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor

All people come to counseling to relieve pain and suffering. They feel they have little to no hope left. What they have been doing isn’t working anymore or maybe never did. They feel out of control, scared, and do not know where to turn. Or they may need education in the form of Parenting or Co-parenting classes. Or some just need to work on relationship issues or manage anxiety. Regardless of what brought you to this website I can help. I am caring, understanding and I want you to feel better. I see great things happening for most people within a few sessions. These clients start to feel happy, gain more confident and report they are satisfied with their life. While I cannot guarantee you the same results, I have seen positive results with most clients.

I became a counselor because I wanted to harness great hope and positive energy and to help install healing for my clients. I consider working with people in therapy an honor and privilege to work with each client. In therapy, each person develops their positive mental wellness plan and great growth often takes place.  

I discovered my passion for counseling teens while volunteering for Riverside Youth Probation. I enjoyed seeing these teens learn and grow as they figure out who they will become. I also work with caregivers of dementia clients and I see the struggle to care for their loved one. I frequently work with people that suffer from depression, anxiety and trauma. I have specialized training in trauma, working with children and elder adults.

I am a member of the following professional organizations:

  • Purple City Alliance helps make The City of Riverside a Dementia Friendly City.

  • American Counseling Association (ACA).

I look forward to meeting and working with you.

School Blues

jude-beck-552276-unsplash x.jpg

Summer is known for many happy moments. We celebrate the 4th of July, being off of work or school, National Watermelon Day (August 3rd), and having those lazy days by the pool that help us to unwind after a long week of work.

One thing that is so important about summer is all the smiles we see. Living in Southern California is not always “chill” but we do have beautiful weather that allows us to visit the beaches and swim in the pool. Growing up in socal can be wonderful and, every summer, we see kids and parents with smiles because summer time is the best time to stay connected with family.

Many children start school at a young age and, when summertime comes, they may lose interest or focus when they eventually start school again in August or September. Others may not like being without the school atmosphere for so long and may have behavioral issues. Both school and summertime are needed but, can a child have school in summer?

Parents may still work in summer and are forced to bring their children with them to work or send them to a family member or baby sitter which could lead to boredom, irritation, annoyance, and even depression. To keep your child occupied and interested during summer by trying some of these easy-designed summertime tips:

  • Make structure: children tend to like to have a plan of what is going on for the day/work- this provides a sense of relief or safety because they know what to expect. Start by making calendars, create a daily routine, and have special nights every once or every other week that involves them making decisions.

  • Help the child to find extra-curricular activities: find camps and day programs that help the child to both physically and mentally stretch. Learning new skills and meeting new people can help the child to have a sense of belonging. Meeting current friends and setting up play dates can also help the children to feel a sense of belonging. Also, family vacations or days away from home help too.

  • Listen: Many times, children just want you to listen. If they are sad are having a hard time adjusting to the changes, sit down and talk with them.

  • Give them purpose: As much as older children despise chores, they are still needed. This gives kids a sense of purpose and that they are contributing to the home or “team” as you might say. Also, let your children come up with creative ideas. You do not need to entertain them 24/7. They have minds, let them wonder. Volunteering is also a good way to show purpose especially if you do it with them.

  • Have fun: Remember to make time for your child and you to just have fun and to be with one another. Life gets busy, but children grow up faster than you know.

Make some summertime memories with these fun tips and your child will forever remember how fun and awesome it was to be with mom or dad while also staying both mentally and physically active. They will be prepared and ready for school after having an amazing summer!



Janna is currently a paraprofessional at a charter school based out of Chino and is also a volleyball coach in Corona. She just graduated from Grand Canyon University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is currently on her way to earning her Master’s degree in Education and hopes to keep pursuing her dream of working with children and families and eventually becoming a mother herself one day in the future.

What does it mean for me to be “diagnosed?”

What does it mean for me to be “diagnosed?”

Think of a diagnosis as a snapshot of who you are not a life sentence. 

During the course of our lives, it is safe to say that any of us can be identified as having a mental health diagnosis at one point in our lives.  The death of a loved one, job loss, relationship issues are all potential catalysts for concern and they technically may lead to a diagnosis.  This doesn’t mean that we are meant to carry a diagnosis forever or that we cannot recover or live fully functional lives.  A mental health diagnosis is identifiable and agreed upon a cluster of symptoms meant to describe a person’s experience at that moment in their life. 

Read More

Marriages Like Fine Wines Take Time

Marriages Like Fine Wines Take Time

Relationships are like fine wines; the taste and consistency will not happen overnight.  However, the steadiness, texture, and palatable is borne out of care, understanding, patience, and desire.  In my couples, therapy work…I find the “crystal ball” effect being quite prevalent, in fact, it’s so prevalent that when mentioned individuals appear bewildered. 

Read More

Celebrating Your Holidays Away From Home

Celebrating Your Holidays Away From Home

Choosing to move to Southern California 15 years ago still, stirs up a variety of emotions during the Holidays for me.  Even though it was very exciting to move from a cold, wet, dark country to sunny California, it was so strange and foreign (pun intended) to hear Christmas songs and seeing decorated trees in 80-degree weather.  My first Christmas in Southern California was celebrated with friends at an outside barbecue gathering, which was total opposite from an inside dinner with close relatives around a fire in the fireplace.

Read More

Thanksgiving When You Don’t Feel Thankful

Thanksgiving When You Don’t Feel Thankful

The holidays are a great way to reconnect with family, to have a Friendsgiving with those who aren’t family but probably should have been, to share old traditions, welcome new folks, watch a game (and argue about the game), 

Read More