Did you know there’s a whole secret language being spoken that barely involves words? What makes this language beautiful is that it is replete with some of the most basic gestures requiring the least effort, yet producing stellar outcomes. Join us as we take you through a snapshot of the fascinating world of therapy. A world where words often steal the spotlight, leaving little credit to the non-verbal cues.
Talking is the most significant part of therapy sessions since it prompts clients to express their thoughts and feelings. Over decades of research in the field of psychotherapy, several non-verbal cues have been identified. Out of these, body language, facial expressions, and silence are figured to be the most common buckets, further classified into more nuances, according to research findings.
Here are a few gestures that we use in our everyday social transactions, but when exchanged in therapy, pave the way for wonders to happen. The subtle nodding movement can be interpreted as a non-verbal counterpart of ‘Go on, I’m with you!’ or ‘You’re not alone in this!’ Another interesting phenomenon that therapists often engage in is mirroring their client’s body language. Research has endorsed that merely matching the position of the client and leaning in to listen intently conveys a sense of understanding. Furthermore, this aids in building and sustaining rapport. Eye contact is yet another tricky code to crack, yet it holds a proven record of communicating attentiveness to what the client is sharing. Ever wondered how silence fits in the equation of a client, therapist, and a therapeutic setting? Sometimes the most profound symphonies and eureka moments transpire in silence. Pauses allow for the information to sink in, thereby making room for further steering towards the developments in the conversation. Steering this discourse towards a lighter place, laughter can mean different things in therapy. A wide spectrum covers everything between a defense mechanism and an experience of joy and relief at once. Even though a chamber witnesses the narration of grueling stories, laughter brings in a breath of fresh air once in a while.
To make this more tangible for you, let’s quickly sketch a picture where non-verbal communication is absent or ineffective in therapy. It would seem like a centerpiece of the puzzle is lost, or the last few climax scenes are cut out from a gripping film. Circling back to therapy, without the reassurance offered by a gentle nod, a smile, or sustained eye contact, clients may struggle to feel heard and validated. Non-verbal cues are instrumental in layering depth to the therapeutic connection and exploration of blind spots along the journey of healing.
Speaking of therapeutic connection, the aspect of kinesics, including facial expressions and gestures greatly influences the process of deepening it, as stated in an academic paper. Therapists can leverage non-verbal communication to build a safe space for the client to invest trust and confide in them. There may be moments during the session when the client may express sorrow, this is when the therapist can recognize the distress and gently probe to explore the emotion. The underpinning of bitter emotions and truths may lead clients to count on defense mechanisms to protect themselves. Their body language may be screaming tension and therefore discomfort, which when detected may make room for healthier coping mechanisms, ultimately enhancing their personal growth. We would love to leave you with a prompt to set you thinking about your personal growth. Here goes, how would you like to add more effectiveness to your non-verbal communication?
P.S. Feel free to zoom in and out to interpret this blog within and beyond the scope of therapy!