It is often viewed as a difficult skill, especially by beginning counsellors and counsellors in training.
Often in our day to day interactions with family, friends and colleagues, we want to fill a silence.
During skills practice, you may find yourself trying hard to sit with silence, something always pulls you forward to fill it.
Some of the most powerful moments of counselling include no talking.
You're now thinking - does this mean that I'm not helping the client?
Well as we know, silence can mean different things to different people
We all have had a different experience of silence as a child.
Typical stances like 'Children should be seen and not heard', 'What do you have to say for yourself?', 'I don’t want to hear another sound', 'Silence is golden', ‘Don’t answer back!’.
We internalise these messages and act them out as a grown up.
Counsellors as well as clients, have received certain messages related to silence and in unawareness both will act them out in a counselling relationship.
As a counsellor, it is important to be aware of what silence can mean to different people and that they need to become aware silence as a counselling skill carefully.
Silence can perceived as empathic and as a space to reflect on thoughts and feelings.
Silence can also be experienced by the client as anxiety provoking.
The counsellor could, in this case, be perceived as critical or at a distance.
It is up to the counsellor to be transparent, congruent and honest about what is happening within the session.
Here are 3 ways that silence can be a therapeutic component to a counselling session.
1. It provides space for the in between moments for client reflection of what has been said.
2. It challenge clients to take responsibility.
3. It gives the client time to think about what they want to say.
A prerequisite however is a strong therapeutic relationship and an appropriate amount of counselling experience.
- Have you experienced any silence in your counselling training within your group?
- If so, how did you feel when sitting with this silence?
- What was going on for YOU?
- Did you feel the urge to say something, just to break the silence?
- Can you feel how it was for the person who was talking and then went silent?
- If you have not yet experienced this within training, or within placement, have you experienced silence in your work environment, with family, with friends?