Silence In Psychotherapy

At first glance, it may seem odd to think about silence in psychotherapy, which is sometimes called “the talking cure”. One might think there wouldn’t be much silence
in the process, and sometimes there’s not. However, there can be productive periods of silence, especially in contemplative psychotherapy, and in in-depth traditional psychotherapy. This type of silence has a specific feel to it; almost as if it has a life of it’s own. In his book, “Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness”, Robert Sardello is describing this type of silence as he emphasizes it’s importance in relating to others: “The pauses in speech are places where Silence can enter to change completely the character, sense and meaning of what we say”, and, “Listening is required for the soul of speech to live, a listening that does not come only before and after we speak but within our speaking itself”.

Perhaps the best way to understand what this experience of silence in psychotherapy can be like, would be to read a description of it in a patient’s own words:
“Sharing regular periods of silence in therapy with you has felt like a gentle allowing to explore my own questions and depths at my own pace.

These long periods of silence that can occur in our sessions have been necessary for me to do the deep level of work we are doing together. The silence seems to open the way to a deeper territory within me that isn’t accessible in ordinary conversation.

Within this territory, an internal sorting through occurs, and allows for what is most important to become apparent and come to the surface to be seen and spoken.
Over time, as I’ve experienced the consistently kind, understanding and compassionate way you respond to me out of the silence, I’ve felt increasingly safe to both encounter and share what is inside of me.

It feels as if out of the shared Silence “a new word” is able to be spoken within me. Your spoken and unspoken feedback can slip past my normal defenses and touch a deeper part of me that is generally unavailable. Through this, I’m able to consider that a different reality than the one I’ve held may exist, one where my pain is understood and validated, but also, one where I have worth and value, one where I’m inherently good and worthwhile as who I most deeply am.

Without the shared silence, the possibilities for healing that open for me within this deep level of contact would likely not be possible.”

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