Silence in Counselling

Some worry that when they are not talking in counselling that it has become a waste of time. Let me show you silence…

When having nothing to say…

I’ve heard it said in session:

“I can think of anything to say…”

Followed, sometimes, by variations on:

“… this must be a waste of time.”

Let me show you silence.

It’s a short video; I recommend you watch all of it from the beginning for the context to make sense, but draw your attention to 1:19-onwards…

… communicates so much.

Is it not normal that these two individuals are still communicating during silence?

That the encounter between them brings up feelings, thoughts, questions, memories, concerns, perhaps somatic symptoms (physical sensations due to emotions)?

Is there really nothing going on in silence; that it’s a waste of time?

Use of Silence in Counselling.

When the client is silent in a counselling session, as the counsellor I’m busy working.

I’m still listening…

  • Listening to the quality of the silence; is the client thinking… or blank…
  • Listening to if the client working or waiting (for me to speak?)
  • Listening to myself & how I’m responding to the silence (counter-transference).
  • Listening for unconscious communication.

For example: if the client is telling me that silence equate to “nothing” or a form of “worthlessness”, this may be an opening to hold a conversation about what “nothing”/”worthlessness” means to the client (i.e. the client’s unconscious has find a way to communicate to me something about its concern around the topic of silence and what it may symbolise for the client).

Silence – whilst it may be understood to the client to represent a waste of time, it’s an opportunity for the counsellor to invite a conversation between the both about the concern.

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