Listening in therapy is an art form. If done effectively, change can happen through helping
the client move further into their ongoing flow of experience. The wording comes in a variety of versions; however, the idea behind the term listening is similar as can be seen across the following samples:
A safe and steady human presence willing to be with whatever comes up is a most powerful factor. If we do not try to improve or change anything, if we add nothing, if however bad something is we only say what we understand exactly. Such a response adds our presence and helps clients to stay with and go further into whatever they sense and feel just then. This is perhaps the most important thing that any person helping others needs to know. (Gendlin, 1996, as cited in Cornell, 2005, p. 149)
In Art Therapy, I listen to what people make with their hands:
The listening response is an attempt to make contact with and carry forward this experiential flow. It’s not enough for the therapist to just say back the client’s words. Words are not feelings. The listener is trying to point his words at the concrete experiential flow for which the listenee is making symbols (words). The listenee checks the listener’s words against this ongoing flow. When the listening response is just right, it has an experiential effect – the flow of experiencing is carried forward. (Friedman, p.73)
This listening opens possibilities for children to grow and develop in a way that is inline with their innate potential and desire, not in ways imposed on them. As an art therapist I know that authentic listening empowers children to get in touch with their implicit knowing of what the next right step is for them to feel better, get out of conflict and be able to move ahead in their lives. It is helping the child listen to and ‘be with’ whatever is disturbing them at the moment and teaching them that they can tolerate those emotions and sensations and listen to what they are saying to them. The focus is on supporting the intelligence of the child’s inner creative process. The child is learning to trust and stay with themselves and their own evolving process, which enables them to feel that they have advocacy, knowledge in knowing what they need to feel whole and healthy.
Who listens to you? Who do you listen to?