While often people acknowledge professional therapy creates gains in self-awareness, more confidence handling relationships, and improved ability to manage stress, how these results are achieved appears mysterious.
What key factors in the conversation happen during a therapy session, which inspire confidence and awareness in the patient, which were previously either weak or lacking?
From years of clinical practice, I summarize the way a therapist listens and responds to a patient, as “bi-lateral listening”. A therapist who helps you reach desired change, listens with both their mind and their heart.
Hearing past the words, gives your therapist a read on your emotions. If someone tells a story that includes major life shifts, and is matter of fact while doing so, a therapist may ask a question that lifts these shy emotions into the therapeutic dialogue. By giving more attention to emotions and identifying and elaborating on them during a therapy session, the patient learns how to know and explain their feelings.
The flip side usage of bi-lateral listening is if a patient during a session talks almost exclusively about their feelings and has little understanding of when feelings arise and how they are effecting both the patient and people in the patient’s life. In this case a therapist most likely would hear the emotions and speak to the cognitive processing of the patient. Your therapist may ask questions that help you collect information and theorize on how you are responding to the ways you express yourself.
As you and your therapist repeat this basic listening process during your therapy sessions, you’ll notice greater balance in your own approach and dialogues in your everyday repertoire with others. What starts developing and strengthening is your awareness of the vastness and complexity of your emotions and thoughts, and your ability to moderate when to express your emotions and when to express your thoughts. You may surprise yourself one day with how naturally you articulate feelings in situations you did not know you had any!
You may notice as well, yourself taking a new path in conversation rather than a debilitating emotional rerun. This will be your magical moment of recognizing the rewards of working with a professional talk therapist.
Sherry Katz, LCSW is clinically trained in systems relational therapy, and practices marriage and family therapy in her solo practice located in Ridgewood, NJ. Comments and questions are welcome.