When I did my first internship as a budding therapist in graduate school, I learned this loud and clear. I worked at a youth service bureau in a depressed area of Southeast Baltimore. Many of the families we saw were already deep into the system (DSS, CPS, Probation, DJS). I was a bit nervous and completely unsure of myself even after completing a rigorous grad program.
I thought I needed to memorize the DSM and know every intervention possible. I was worried about diagnosis, and correctly presenting cases in supervision. What I quickly learned was that so many of the people – children, adults, families, parents – sitting across from me had never been truly listened to. They needed to be heard.
There is a lot more to psychotherapy than just being with another, but it is the most important part. I’d say it’s even the most difficult part.
Now that I am a seasoned practitioner helping newer coaches and therapists find their way, there is a tendency to want to talk and fix and not simply allow the other person to have all their feelings.
But when we can just be with another person. Just listen. Let them finish the sentence and reflect back that we actually heard them before giving our thoughts and opinions and advice on the matter, it is truly a gift.
In this season of giving, try this. Try pausing and intentionally listening to the person in front of you.
Even if you get activated because a part of you disagrees.
Even if you get activated because it is the same problem you’ve heard about before and you know how to fix it.
Even if you are bored or tired or spacing out.
What a gift you will be giving.
Presence really is present.
And not one we often receive
. . .especially this time of year!