Listening to the Client

For me the key to therapy is space: space in which to listen and to perceive in a total way everything that the client says with their words, and with their body, space in which to listen as if this person were the first and only person in the world, and they were giving you some infinitely precious information — how it is for them.

They are coming at me from all directions lately, reminders to listen. One of my favourite (hence probably terribly misremembered and mis-phrased) quotes from Gene Gendlin, goes something like this — to be a therapist we do not need to be any particular kind of wonderful person, we just need to be able to put ourselves aside to make space for the client.

And then, I would say, not only does the client have the space in which to be, and to hear themselves, but I have the space to listen to them. Listening is not easy when your mind is full of effort, when you are preoccupied on any level with diagnosing the client, working out what their problems are, what the patterns are, and how to fix them.

In a sense such thoughts are automatic, and appropriate for a therapist to be having, and all those thoughts, experiences and ideas should be “within arm’s reach”. But the main, central space, I believe, should be just that. Space, in which to listen, to perceive in a total way everything that the client says with their words, and with their body, space in which to listen as if this person were the first and only person in the world, and they were giving you some infinitely precious information — how it is for them.

Complete receiving of this, in the moment, in the particular space made by the therapist within themselves, has to be the key to therapy, and has to be ever more difficult in this culture of information overload, research, tips, and constant communication between professionals all over the world. Let’s find our own techniques for taking this information and putting it somewhere safe in order to prioritise listening to the client.

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