From the ListenTruly.com BlogThe Therapeutic Effects of Authentic Listening
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Thursday, August 02, 2018
by Mubeena, Founder at ListenTruly.com
Listening can be as therapeutic, if not more, than conventional therapies. Research studies have validated the positive effects of reflective listening, client-centered therapy and motivational interviewing. I discuss some of these researched effects which my own clients experience. Here, the client has control of their healing, directs their own space and time, and accepts their sense of self out of their own volition.
The noble act of listening is significantly underrated in our mainstream media. Speakers are more valued than listeners anywhere you go. We look at famous celebrities, industry experts and authorities by virtue of what they say, period. We put them up on a pedestal quoting their wisdom from sound bites, excerpts from books, public relations statements and interviews for the world to consume.
We derive comfort, inspiration and escapism from the people we admire. We may want to be like them, get a bit of their luck, charm, money and beauty. And so we listen to what they say.
But I’m here to say that you probably are the bigger hero in all of this. And what I wish is that you would use your tendency to listen more to the people you deal with everyday. You could change someone’s life and receive long-term satisfaction in return.
Whether rich or poor, healthy or sick, crazy or not-so crazy, most people at this moment need someone to listen to them. Not only to share known causes of daily stress, listening authentically creates therapeutic effects admittedly verified by research studies.
Research into listening is regularly published in scientific journals. The phenomenon has been labeled “motivational interviewing”, “reflective listening”, “client-centered” or “non-directive therapy” based on humanistic psychology principles of Carl Rogers (1951). The core idea is that therapists need to accept their client’s situation with empathy.
There are some key differences in these therapies and my practice as a Listener. For example, I refrain from summarizing the client’s point and neither do I ask questions of them. But similarities are well noted and have been proven in their therapeutic value.
The following effects are commonly demonstrated in my own practice and those verified by research.
Openness and Trust
Prior to an official session, I orient my clients about what is expected. Most therapists do not conduct such communication. Clients instead are put through laborious psychometric testing backed by the assumption that something wrong needs to be found out. As a professional Listener who strives to practice authentically, I find that all of my clients let their guard down after an orientation session. The main message of this session is to let the client know that I am not looking to identify their “problem”. What they are going through is normal in their humanity. When this message is communicated effectively, my clients already feel a sense of openness and trust. This makes it less resistant for them to share their most intimate emotions. It also offers realistic expectations from our association with no anticipation of a magic pill.
Control of Direction
The client is in total control with an authentic listener at the other end. Now is a good time to reiterate over and over how this is central to the listening process. Unlike other practices, the way I execute in a session is to allow the client to direct the time they have with me. This means I do not probe, do not ask questions, do not direct the client to speak about one topic only and do not interrupt what is being said. The only way I would do any of the aforementioned is if I was asked to do so (sometimes this does happen when new clients are adapting to this sense of having control of their time). How is this control therapeutic? It provides raw freedom. And with that comes motivation to make an effort to face their sense of self and take control of it. Once a client feels totally in control, direct each session as they like and talk without the pressure to stay ‘on topic’, it paves the way for clarity.
Hope for Change
With authentic listening, the biggest therapeutic effect is for clients to feel hope all by themselves. Hope for something new, hope for the future, hope for what they are yet to achieve or manifest. At the end of every session, most of my clients naturally guide themselves back to positivity. Nobody wants to end sessions on a sour note. That is how powerful it is for clients to be conscious of time and direct each session. The rate of wanting to change, hope, strive for better is off the charts. When clients believe they have been heard and told that what they are is totally normal and human then they begin to want to do better. They want to change and continue to tell their story out loud, unraveling their progress be it a step or a whole new shift. Clients explore their internal ambivalence and have a high chance of resolving it when a Listener harbors unprecedented hope for their future.
The most cited therapeutic effect expressed by my own clients is simply the experience of normalcy. In other words, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with them. This is ingrained into their minds at the outset. When someone chooses to work with me, I make this crystal clear – what he or she is going through is absolutely normal and part of being human. The fact is that they are not alone in their situation because the world is filled with people who know exactly what they’re feeling. They aren’t the first person going through this and they won’t be the last. They may have come to my listening service on the back of being called ‘abnormal’, ‘different’, ‘pathological’, ‘disturbed’, ‘damaged’ or ‘psychotic’. So the best therapeutic effect has been bringing three important things into awareness – he/she won’t be labeled throughout this process, he/she is unique as a person, and he/she also has a unifying solidarity with people around the world going through similar circumstances. This sense of being normal in their situation is meaningfully therapeutic.
Authentic listening allows a client to understand himself or herself at a deeper level. This occurs as a result of vocalizing thoughts out loud, enabling them to speak to themselves as if they’re in front of a mirror. When I create a space for a client to organize his/her thoughts out in the open it usually results in self-acceptance out of their own volition. With greater self-understanding, the therapeutic effect is to make peace and realize the reality of their situation. Even if this realization brings up feelings of sadness or a wish for it to be different, the first step in healing it is to acknowledge its existence. The understanding of oneself has unparalleled therapeutic effects as the choices, options and decisions based on this understanding become permissible and admissible. New meaning and purpose can derive from self-understanding and it is common to witness my clients create new intentions.
Summary of Article
The Big Ideas
The core idea is that therapists need to accept their client’s situation with empathy. Most therapists look for abnormalities as soon as the client starts speaking.
02. Guard Down
What clients are going through is normal in their humanity. When this message is communicated effectively, my clients already feel a sense of letting the guard down.
03. In Control
Once a client feels totally in control, where they direct each session as they like and talk without the pressure to stay ‘on topic’, it paves the way for clarity and healing.
My greatest wish is for authentic listening to empower people to open up, get support and take control of their healing. Most of my clients have sought this out as an alternative to traditional psychotherapy. Conventional therapy looks for abnormalities to stick a label on those seeking professional help. Therapy is not for everyone and that’s why I do what I do. The act of listening is as therapeutic if not more, than psychotropic drugs, dishing out advice or following anyone else’s plan and pace of recovery but one’s own.
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Mubeena is the Founder of Listen Truly, helping adults get the clarity and relief they deserve without psychotherapy. She started working as a professional listener out of her need for spiritual growth and her desire to practice non-judgment. If you would like to learn more, sign up for a free orientation session.