Use of silence

Culturally we have been taught to be uncomfortable with silence; this can influence the counsellor’s use of silence and the client’s reactions to it.
New counsellors are typically uncomfortable with pauses; often rushing in to fill the gaps, by doing this the counsellor assumes inappropriate responsibility for the counselling session.

The person centred counsellor trusts that the client will work in a way, and at a pace, that is suitable for them.
The counsellor gives the client control of the content, pace and objectives, this includes listening to silences as well as words, sitting with them and recognising that the silences may facilitate the counselling process.    

What type of feeling can cause you to fill the silence? Feel free to comment in the counselling forum

Silences occur for a number of reasons

For the counsellor it can be:

  • A deliberate use of silence to encourage the client’s self-exploration
  • A deliberate use of silence to encourage the client to “carry the burden” of the conversation.
  • An organisational use of silence enabling the counsellor to collect her/his own thoughts.
  • A natural ending to a phase of discussion.

For the client it can be:

  • A time to make connections, to wait for words or images to occur.
  • A space in which feelings can be nurtured and allowed to develop.
  • A space in which the client is able to recover from “here and now” emotions.
  • An attempt to elicit a response from the counsellor, such as satisfying a need for approval or advice.
  • An organisational use of silence enabling the client to collect her/his own thoughts, remember events, assess values and reflect on feelings.

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