Two Handy Communication Techniques; Mental Health and Therapy Review Series: Post # 3

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Welcome to post #3 on the Therapy Review series. Links to other posts will be below:

This post talks about a few key observations on how I was treated in each and every single session. I think that these play a very important role in the healing process. I also believe that this is very applicable in any type of communication, from the very intimate and vulnerable type that we do with our love ones, to the very straightforward, distant, but still important type that we do in our professional life.

Mirroring

  • The way I describe it, it is the concept of speaking and using the language of the person you are listening to as appropriate, and as frequently as possible. Mirroring can help connect and be more relate-able. This involves inserting words and sometimes bouncing it back to the speaker, either in responses or in asking for clarification. These helps when discussing feelings, particularly heightened ones, and by acknowledging it, it gets diffused. It also helps with explaining new concepts that the client/ listener needs to hear about, but because of past trauma and ways of thinking, they may not be very convinced right away that it can apply to them as well.
  • Example, if I have said the words “I felt undeserving of that positive treatment that I saw was given towards others” some examples of mirroring can be
    • Let’s talk about why you felt undeserving.
    • Tell me more about that treatment that what was given towards others that bother you?
  • Another great application is using themes for analogy. Example, if the other person is into video games, explaining processes in those words certainly help. Examples that I have actually experienced in my therapy session are:
    • progress point = checkpoint in an adventure game
    • the wise old NPC (non playable character) shading tips on how to conquer the beast, but you the player would have to try it yourself.
  • Another theme we used is connecting physical therapy to mental health therapy. Please see post 1. This was a theme that kept going, and even more so now that we are making comparisons such as how my behaviour was during the “diagnostics stage” as opposed to the “start of the treatment stage”.

Focused Listening

  • This is the act and process of demonstrating to the person you are listening to that you are paying attention to every single thing that is said, including every single thing that is not said. This is very crucial, especially when the person you are speaking with is at a moment of vulnerability. Being on the receiving end of this is very reassuring, and healing and can help overcome the past beliefs that their experience of hardship and trauma is an isolated case and that it is deserved.
  • To do this well, it has to be both verbal and nonverbal. From the eyes, to hands, and the way you as a listener are leaning towards the person. Applying mirroring aspects complements and reinforces active listening as well.
  • It is completely okay to “interrupt” these by asking clarifying questions, or at least during therapy sessions, attend to any emerging intense emotional reactions while listening. From my view, that is actually not rudely disruptive,  but a sign that the listener is adaptable to make responses or interventions, and at that point in time, it is beyond silently nodding.
  • There are many benefits to this such as being more efficient, because by taking the time and taking it slow as needed to listen attentively, the conversation only has to happen once. The information can be processed and probed after it is absorbed and next steps can be identified. For many survivors or people who are facing a problem, re-telling the story in exhausting and possibly humiliating as well.

Being on the receiving end of this during the therapy sessions was really great! If felt comforting, it felt validating, it felt safe. That is what helped provide the opportunity to be more vulnerable and open, resulting to addressing the ugly side of the trauma of my sexual assault experience. This is what helped untangle and connect what seemed to be unrelated events but influenced me up to today.

It was incredibly motivating to see these in action, and I really hope that I can apply it myself in any and all future contexts. These, among other things, have been helping in this healing journey. and I am excited to share them in future posts.

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