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Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Sometimes when I talk to my husband and I think he is not really listening to me, I ask him if he is listening to me. His famous line is “I am hearing the words you are saying.” He knows the difference between hearing and listening.

Listening is deeper and more powerful than hearing. Listening in a clinical setting is engaged and active not passive. It involves more than just our ears.

The Chinese symbol to listen illustrates this…

Now in 2023, I can say that I have been practicing for 20 years. I believe that building therapeutic partnerships with clients/patients is foundational to a successful practice. One of the key tools I use is reflective listening. I recommend all new practitioners build their reflective listening skills.

Reflective listening definition

Reflective listening is listening and hearing what the patient is saying not just with words but with the whole person (body language and tone of voice). It is giving the patient your undivided attention and letting them know they are heard.

Reflective listening skills

Give the patient your full listening - eyes, ears and heart.

Listen for the deeper meaning behind the words your clients speaks.

Allow for moments of silence or “pregnant pauses” in your discussion to allow for new insights and reflections from your patient.

Avoid offering advice too quickly.

After a client speaks

  1. Reflect back poignant words and thoughts expressed by the patient that you want to reiterate.

  2. Focus on change language

  3. Focus on DARN - desire, ability, reason and need.

Reflective listening examples

Patient 1 - I am excited to try meditation (said with flat tone of voice and affect)

Practitioner - It sounds like you like the idea of meditation but may have some concerns about your ability to practice it?

Patient 2 - I am excited to try meditation to help with my sleep issues (said with excitement in the voice)

Practitioner - It sounds like you are making connections between your sleep and your state of mind.

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