In therapy, the interactions with your therapists are often warm and familiar, but also structured in a way to hold space for you differently than other relationships in your life. This is because therapy is a place for you to be supported, heard, and seen but also gently challenge past beliefs and behaviors while integrating new ones. Essentially, it can be a completely new type of relating/interacting with another person.
• A few weeks ago, I was listening to my partner talk about a problem he was having. I accidentally went into “therapist mode” and was repeating things back to him as he was talking things out, instead of giving advice or throwing in my own opinion. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. It made me laugh because he was genuinely confused and said “why do you keep repeating what I’m saying?” I forget that sometimes as it’s happening, clients may also be feeling this way.
Therapists are trained to do this regularly, it’s referred to as active listening.
Active Listening is a skill used when therapists paraphrase or repeat what the client is telling them to confirm they understand what’s being said and gives the client a chance to correct or add on to the point they made.
• It helps cut down on misunderstandings, misinterpretations, confusion, while validating the speaker and empathizing with them. It’s something that I use regularly to help understand exactly what my clients are trying to tell me.
• It’s also a skill that couples can use to show their partner that they are present, attentive, and listening when the other person is talking.
• Being present to one’s feelings is a gift we have in the work we do. Therapists need to listen and understand in order to heal.
Someone tells a story and the therapist says “how did it make you feel?” and the person says “I just kept thinking, how could they do that to me, yaknow? It’s been stressful.”
“What did that feel like?”
This gives the client another chance to express the “feeling” they feel. The therapist can help client identify feelings like, “betrayed” “sad” “overwhelmed” “anxious” “lonely” “mentally exhausted”, etc.
Why is identifying our emotions important?
Everyone can experience things differently and knowing what you felt is key to helping you understand + cope with that emotion.
•we can determine what emotion underlies some of the painful emotions (anger is a sign we are having other emotions like fear, sadness, rejection, unloved, etc.) •
•you allow yourself to make meaning of the uncomfortable physical sensations that accompany that emotion.
•you can give yourself permission to “feel the feeling” and acknowledge the challenges you faced.
•you can receive empathy + validation that helps soothe feelings of distress.
•you can identify coping strategies tailored to this difficult EMOTION, rather than the single situational event that caused it. This helps us gain insight and helpful ways to deal with tough emotions in the future!
•therapists can help identify emotional patterns and themes and tie them to other experiences you’ve had in your life previously
•can explore what role our feelings have in our thoughts + behaviors
•Get more control over our emotions overall.