Effective healing is directly related to the strength of the relationship between the client and their therapist. Part of creating this strong relationship is practicing effective communication. Misinterpretations and misunderstandings may lead to tension and, consequently, deterioration of that important relationship… that’s why therapists should be especially well-versed in communication techniques used for individual therapy.
There are many communication techniques therapists incorporate into their practice; here are a few important ones!
1. Using Open-Ended Questions
Close-ended questions can be useful if the patient isn’t able to formulate full answers. For instance, if a client is cognitively impaired or can’t be able to speak with others.
However, open-ended questions evoke more precise, personal information than close-ended questions. “Close-ended” refers to questions that only need a yes or no answer—lacking the thoughtfulness and real reflection that is productive in therapy. This communication technique is especially valuable when the therapist wants complete and thorough information from the patient.
2. Attentive, Active Listening
Active listening is a crucial aspect of communication. It is more than just hearing, listening, or simply remaining silent as you listen to your patient. Active, attentive listening isn’t a passive activity. It’s all about hearing, processing, and understanding the patient’s words and processing them based on their context and expressions as they communicate to the therapist. Ask follow-up questions, elaborate on emotions, and validate concerns the client expresses.
Summarizing is extremely helpful in individual therapy. As you summarize the main takeaways from your session with a client, the patient receives a clear picture of their thought process and the necessary strategies they need to employ to make positive changes in their lives they want. They can see that you actively listened to their struggles. You are also able to concisely document the conversations. Concluding with statements like “Does that sound correct?” is recommended, to give the patient a chance to confirm the accuracy of their perspectives.
4. Embrace the Pause
Be methodical and intentional with the use of silence; know when to talk and listen. When your patient is sharing personal or important thoughts, don’t be in a hurry to respond. Rather, take time to listen and appreciate the impact of their words and message.
5. Giving Recognition and Acknowledgement
Recognition of progress and accomplishments acknowledges positive personal behavior without obviously complimenting them (which can come across as insincere or unhelpful). By validating the difficulty of what your client has overcome, you demonstrate your appreciation of their efforts. You’ll be “complimenting” them for the right things, in the right ways.
Positive reinforcement for the progress your clients make will act as a motivator and encouragement for them to continue making changes in their lives. They’ll feel more hopeful about the fruits of their efforts, which will boost their energy and confidence in their abilities.
6. Validate Your Patient’s Thoughts and Feelings During Individual Therapy
Support your patient’s feelings and encourage them to talk more about them. When therapists are attentive and use proper language, they create a safe and comfortable environment for their patients to reveal their concerns and fears. This helps the therapists to tailor their interventions so they can offer valuable, effective, and personalized care.
Prioritize Your Communication Techniques
While communication is essential in every part of our lives, it is especially useful in individual therapy. Successful therapy starts with successful communication. Whether you’re an experienced therapist or new to the field, take the time to learn and improve communication techniques to enhance overall patient experience. Just being cognizant of what you say and how you say it can significantly alter your patient’s response to treatment.