Body Talk

Objective:

This Body Talk activity can be done either individually or in a group setting. The objective of this body acceptance activity is to provide education about the role of body image distortion in eating disorders. The goal of this activity is to increase insight into distorted thoughts and projection of negative feelings onto body parts, to challenge people to renegotiate negative body image focus, and to develop tools to support body acceptance. This activity focuses on taking inventory of body image history from childhood to present day.

Materials:

Markers, crayons or colored pencils (three)

Body outline diagram (two)

White board and markers (group setting)

Activity:

Write down words or phrases that you associate with “body image” on the back side of your body outline diagram (individual) or on the white board (group). Think about or discuss these ideas together. Choose three colors of markers, crayons or colored pencils and a body outline diagram. Using a color code, identify, color and mark parts of your body where you assign judgement. Use “feel good about,” “feel neutral about,” and “feel bad about.”

Color code example:

Blue = feel good about

Yellow = feel neutral

Red = feel bad about

Next, take the second diagram and depict how you ideally want to feel about your body. You may want to date the diagrams so that over time, you can notice how your body image feelings change. Write down five realistic steps that you can take towards having a healthier body image and begin the steps.

Download activity here

MH professionals, thought I’d share my current favorite books and resources.

Meaning

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

[Check out his other books!]


Relationships

The Gaslighting Recovery Workbook: Healing from Emotional Abuse by Amy Marlow-MaCoy, LPC


Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Journal


Christian

Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling extended edition by John G. Kruis


Habits

Atomic Habits by James Clear


Mindful Eating

The Mindful Eating Workbook by Vincci Tsui, RD


Anxiety

Rewire Your Anxious Brain by Catherine M. Pittman, Ph.D. and Elizabeth M. Karle, MLIS


Trauma

Trauma-Informed Yoga: A Toolbox for Therapists by Joanne Spence, MA, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT


Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma: A Workbook for Survivors and Therapists by Janina Fisher, PhD

Do you have a favorite from this list or a recommendation?

Therapist Workshop: the emotional aspect of obesity. Instructor: Roni Maislish M.A. (psychotherapist and clinical social worker)

Meet Roni Maislish

I met Roni Maislish through LinkedIn (he is in Israel), as we both work in mental health and specifically with eating and emotions. We both recognize the emotional aspects of obesity and that it can be an emotional-mental-issue. Roni says, “Most of the time, when people talk about eating disorders, they forget the field of overweight and the emotional side of this field.” Roni created this workshop for therapists, family physicians, dieticians, and related professionals, which I will talk about more below.


Find four downloadable worksheets on emotions, eating, and body image at the bottom this article. I have used these worksheets when working with people over the years. Shannon Mick, NCC, LPC, CCATP, CTMH


Roni’s Workshop

By Roni Maislish

Therapist workshop – The Emotional aspect of Obesity (Introspection through the relationship with food and eating as a gate to change, cure and healing)

Background – How many times you had been surprised by overweight patients that told you to “fix them quickly”, who for years after years trying to lose weight, sometime seceded and then back again, gain the weight back? How many time your faith in your patient dissipate and  you felt anger and frustration that he or she is not committed enough to the process like you? And how many times you felt that you are not able to understand emphatically (near-experience) why those patients cant keep on fighting, controlling and avoiding in their food and eating’s issues? and how many time you realized and told yourself that something is missing?

For all of you therapist from a variety methods and approach who dealing with the emotional aspect of overeating, overweight, emotional eating, emotional non-eating, non-acute eating disorder, obesity and more – you all most welcome to workshop (short educating program) where you become familiar, study and also go in depth to a new dimension which will enable you to see, understand and experience the “food and eating’s issue” not as a “problem to solve” but as a unique way that a specific person use to “tell his story” while integrate and keeping safe his “self”. And From this kind of listening stance we will be able to make place to our patients, while helping them finding their subjective way toward healing and restoring their wounded, un-develop and neglected self.

The workshop – In the beginning I will present my attitude in the last 15 years (which changing and modifying in time) for dealing with emotional eating’s issues. I will share with you my straggles, dilemmas and personal questions that occupied me since early childhood and connect it to my journey (both personal, academic and professional) and how I established and combined theories which gradually help me to meet myself and my patients from a “different” perspective (that sometime we can feel as if you speak an ancient languish).

Doing so, I will manly focus in two theoretical and clinical paradigms to help us to understand ideas I formulate these years– I call it: “the fat remember”/”the fat’s emotional role” (or, “if the fat will able to talk, what it will say?”): 

The first paradigm based on Didier Anzieu’s work (manly his book :”I-Skin”, which written in French “Le Moi-Peau”) who dealt on the emotional-sensorial clothing (“I-Skin”) that a human beings wear from early childhood and making adaptation trough the years to avoid invasiveness and secure the self from hurts and fragmentation. In his work Anzieu present 8 function of this psyche soma’s envelop like holding, handling, protecting and more. In my work, regarding Anzieu’s ideas, I explore the fat, the overweight, mostly in the abdomen (but not always) and its role to establish and contributing the building of those 8 functions in case that the self no longer develop normally. For instance we will learn together about the connection of the stimulation-shield function in the “I-Skin” clothing to the gaining weight process to build “fat armor” against attacks on the self.

Later on, I will present the “self-Psychology” paradigm while understanding deeply that defense and resistance is not something that the therapist need to break, remove, overcome, or even to melt so we can see emotional aspects and reasons of gaining weight’s process as a reminder from a depress self which struggle to survive non-emphatic world. This self, as I see it, is still hoping that someone (maybe the therapist) will see beyond the “fat story” and help the patient to restart its “inner self program” and recover those years of deprivation.

Regarding the topic of this workshop and self-psychology, In his second book, “The restoration of the self” (1977, pp 80-81) Kohut refer to the triad: oral fixation, pathological overeating and obesity and present the understanding of the classical approach that deals with drive-awareness and the ability to control the drive (via its suppression, sublimation, inhibition of its aim, displacement, or neutralization). Instead, Kohut’s claim is that “the child asserts his need for a food-giving self-object” and “the child needs empathically modulated food-giving not food”. If this need remains unfulfilled, Kohut continue, then the child retreats to a fragment of the larger experiential unit, i.e., to pleasure-seeking oral stimulation (depressive eating). Kohut add that increasing awareness to those process renewed movement toward psychological health.

The combination between Anzieu’s theory and Kohut’s perspective, while adding the work of Eigen (Toxic Nourishment, Emotional Starvation), Ogden (The Autistic-contiguous position), McDougall (Theatres of the Body) – will all helps us to build new platforms and ideas which open new possibilities to understand the patient’s pain, to find beauty in the defensive-structure of the patient (his overeating patterns) and further on to develop the patient self-ability to heal and grow himself while seeing us ganging and flexible in our empathy enabling him to change too.

During our learning and in between the theoretical conceptualization that we will create, I will share with you some example from my clinical work. The main part in this section will be the “mindfulness meal” where we will be able , to search different possibilities for introspection of the connection between our relationship with food/eating and others relationship (family, marriage, career, friends, money, faith and more). In this mindfulness-experiential process, we will use motive like: choice, miss, lose, regret, planning, disintegration, aesthetics and more, to understand how a certain movement from our eating place’s seat to the buffet table represent original selfobject needs. That will help us to vary and enrich our empathic capability and responses to those patients that their selfobject need didn’t met yet and have a very complex relationship with food and eating. For example: One of the participants in the workshop can become aware that the way he choose the food was similar to how others choosing and he can realized that he didn’t ask himself what are his special and authentic needs. Then he can share about that kind of pattern in other relationship (for example – he choose where to study upon his unique need or was it a “social decision”).  That mindfulness experience of understanding will take us, as a group, to discuss  how some of our patients will prefer the “socially eating” pattern which can give them a response for their twinship’s (alter ago) needs (they eat the same food like everyone so they feel part of the group, and the world). Those kinds of introspections around the table will encourage us to think about more emphatic response’s possibilities for more kind of needs (mirroring, idealizing).

If we will have enough time we will practice in pair the question: “for what I am really hungry for? (The dialogue between emotional hunger and physical hanger) and mediate on the “role of the fat” and more. We will complete our journey with sharing our experience and understanding, we will ask ourselves what surprise us today and we will have some time for questions and answers. 

About the instructor –Roni Maislish M.A (psychotherapist and clinical social worker).

From 2005 I am working with overweight’s patients dealing with emotional eating that come from emotional long-term neglected. I the last 2 year I am working in Tel Hashomer (Sheba) hospital in an overweight treatment center (part of the endocrine institute) while between 2006-2011 I saw eating disorder’s patients (and their parents) in Soroka Hospital. From 2007 working as emotional eating’s therapist. Leading groups both for therapist and non-therapist, short workshop and year-long dynamic-study groups. Beside working with patients, I involve deeply in education-prevention roles schools, pre-school, eating disorder’s clinics, accompanying nutritionist, mantel health department, and much more .in 2008 I participated in a 5 days retreat in California leaded by Geneen Roth (the author of the bestseller “When food is Love”).

Download his workshop brochure below.


Additional information from roni

Watch these YouTube videos.

Eating and Emotions: APN Lodge Speaker Series with Roni Maislish

Roni Maislish, MSW & Jamie Anderson, PMHNP discuss The Emotional Aspects of Obesity/Overweight


“Mindfulness Meal” Workshop

Download information “mindfulness-meal” workshop below.


Take action

Reach out to Roni to learn more about his worksheet and how you can help.

+972-522811598

ronimaislish33@gmail.com

Get to know him more on his website, there are more videos on there, as well.


Downloadable worksheets from Shannon Mick, NCC, LPC, CCATP, CTMH

Mirror Work Activity

Uniquely Me, Body Image, Body Positivity

Journal Prompts: Healthy Relationship to Food

Get In-Tune with Satiety & Hunger Cues: Hunger Scale Tool and Questions to Consider

How to Stay Afloat Financially While Searching for a Job

Guest article provided by Lisa Walker of neighborhoodsprout.org

No one denies that looking for work can be a difficult and stress-inducing time. There are many challenges you will have to face, and finding a way to support yourself financially is one of them. The good news is that there are many viable options, whether that means pet sitting, crafting and selling your goods, or teaching a musical instrument.

Get Crafting

If you enjoy working with your hands, consider starting a crafting or artistic venture to support yourself. There are many options to explore, so even if you don’t enjoy one form of crafting, you can try another. A craft needs to solve a problem or provide something that people want. What do people enjoy? What do they need that they don’t have? How can you bridge those two and create something desirable? What makes your version the one that people want? A good tip is to not overproduce right away, as it’s wise to experiment to see what adjustments might need to be made. You also don’t need to start out big, either. It could be as easy as a bracelet, a necklace, or even a treat for puppies. The fact is there are many, many avenues for you to try.

Find That Side Gig

If you are not the crafting type, there are plenty of alternatives. The benefit of a side gig is that it allows the flexibility to find a more permanent solution. If you’re good with words, you could try writing or editing as a freelancer. If you are looking for a way to get out of the house and get a little exercise to stay busy, pet sitting or even dog walking can be a lucrative solution. There are different websites you can use as a platform to find clients, or you can advertise yourself independently. However, if you do go independent, know that you will want to get insurance. When you work in other people’s homes or with another person’s pets, you want to have some financial security should something awful happen. However, this is a great side gig that can turn into a full-time position, especially if you love animals. What’s more, a side gig can allow you to set aside time to self-care, which is crucial for maintaining your physical and mental health.

Teach or Tutor

If you have previous experience, especially in fields where there is a lot of growth, you might want to market your skills as a teacher or a tutor. There are websites that allow you to find students, or, like pet-sitting, you can go it solo and advertise on your own. You just need a niche, and then you can go from there, even producing instructional videos or little teasers to get new clients. It could be business related, educational, or even something like music. If you play a musical instrument, you can make money teaching it to others. Even if you only did well in English in school, you can teach it. Also, tutoring in a subject like English to non-native speakers can be very beneficial and rewarding. It really doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you have the experience to advertise yourself as an authority.

Go Online

If you need some time to yourself, but you also need to earn an income, all you need is a computer and the internet to get started. A popular choice is being a virtual assistant. You don’t need experience, just the capacity to focus on multiple things at once. You could transcribe videos, take surveys, test websites, or even start a blog. If you know your way around a computer, you could try web development. Do you speak another language? If so, try your hand at becoming an online translator. Some things may require skills or experience, but many don’t. You could even try your hand at data entry.

Get the Right Help

Starting a new business is challenging, but there are services like ZenBusiness that can support you every step of the way. You might be wondering,  “What is ZenBusiness?” It’s a business support platform with tools and services for entrepreneurs just like you! They offer everything from business registration assistance to tax and banking information. With an all-inclusive go-to, you can focus on choosing the right money-earning role, rather than getting bogged down in the details of getting off the ground.

You can find a fulfilling way to support yourself during a stressful job search. You may need to experiment a bit before you find the right fit, but it is out there. Take care of yourself and work toward doing something you both enjoy and can use to achieve financial stability.

Does the stress of looking for work have you dealing with anxiety? Professional mental health services from Shannon Mick can help you reduce stress and achieve your goals. (724) 841-1963 shannon.mick@finishstrongercounseling.com  

Image Courtesy of Pexels.com

Just Listen: don’t worry about giving someone the perfect piece of advice

Just being a listener is powerful. Depending on the person who needs listened to and the situation, listening can be the only thing needed to help somebody. We’re bombarded with messages about listening and responding in a particular way. That we must follow A, B, and C or we aren’t being effective or that we might cause harm to the speaker. While we should aim to listen skillfully and to do no harm, we still can’t forget [or minimize] that just listening is impactful. We don’t always need to know what to say, that should relieve some pressure, all you have to do is listen and be present.

Simply listen

If you have a friend or family member who is experiencing issues and concerns, consider just listening to them first, rather than listening and offering up advice. While listening, practice being an active (non-distracted) listener, paying attention to nonverbal messages, listening to understand, making some eye contact, and being empathetic.

Keep in mind, that the speaker might not need an in-depth conversation. They may just need someone to listen and be there for them. The act of sharing out loud helps lift weight off of shoulders and problem solve. The brain processes differently while speaking out loud, as opposed to keeping your thoughts to yourself.

Ivy, mentor and mental health advocate, wrote about the power of listening. She says, “I have always emphasized that it is important even if you don’t agree with or understand how someone is feeling, to simply just listen to them and what they are going through. Simply asking someone if they are okay and letting them know you are there for them, is something so simple, yet so extremely powerful. Too often we feel like we won’t have the right words to say to people who reach out to us in need, so we keep our distance as a safer alternative. But you can make such a huge difference by just listening to someone’s story.”

Ivy continues, “When we listen to others, we let them know without even saying the words that their feelings are valid, that they themselves are valid and that we care about them. When we listen to other people’s story and allow them to be vulnerable and honest with us, the unexpected benefit is that we too can feel empowered to tell our own story and feel confident that someone will also listen to us when we are struggling.”

Read more of this excellent article here.

Listen to someone’s story and let them know that you’re there for them.

When you want to help, but feel like you can’t

Have you ever felt overwhelmed or stressed out by feeling like you need to help that someone who is coming to you about their problems? Maybe you have your own things that you’re going through and don’t have enough space to hold what they’re going through, as well. Perhaps, you’re feeling burnt out and need to practice self-care. You shouldn’t try to help another person when your glass is empty. Nothing comes out of an empty cup when you try to pour from it. [Even if your glass is full, practice daily self-care.] Whatever your situation, if you still want to be there for them, then just being a listener takes some pressure off of you. You can be present for the other person, but not hold as much responsibility in giving advice.

When to suggest that someone considers talking to a professional counselor

Know when to suggest that someone needs to go seek a mental health professional’s services. Topics like abuse, neglect, addiction, suicidal ideation, and suicide are red flags. Report abuse and neglect when you suspect something serious is going on, so that it can be looked into. Know the signs of suicide in order to prevent it and know what to do. Non-Judgmentally, ask open-ended questions to see what’s going on. Gently suggest that they speak with a mental health professional. Mention two or three benefits of speaking with a professional.

For information on lifeline contacts and resources, visit here.

And more, go here.

Benefits of professional mental health counseling. Bust the myths and check out what counselors actually do.

What therapy actually is:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/12/22/mental-health-therapy-what-people-think-it-is-vs-what-it-actually-is/

The value of seeing a therapist:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/07/27/the-value-of-seeing-a-therapist-what-does-your-therapist-do-when-theyre-not-in-session/

Stuck on finding a counselor?

How to find the right counselor.

Consider talking with a counselor…

Other times when a person should talk with a professional is when what they’re going through has impacted their life in such a way that they have difficulty functioning and maintaining a normal routine. Their job, family, social life, sleep, eating, major areas like that have been impacted. Especially, if this has been going on for a few weeks or longer, but really anyone, at anytime should go talk with a professional. It’s easier to fix something before it gets out of hand. This distress scale can help keep tabs on the impact that what you’re going through has on you.

Final words on just listening

Mindy Pierce, MA, LPC of Grow Counseling adds this to help us think further as listeners.

“Here are a few questions to help us think further about the powerful importance of listening and how well we listen:

• Who is the best listener you know?

• What makes that person a good listener?

• How do you feel when you are with that person?

• What can you learn from that person that would make you a better listener?

• What do you hesitate to talk to your partner about? Why?

• What happens to those withheld thoughts and feelings?

• What are the consequences of that withholding for you? For the relationship?

• What conversations would you like to go differently?

• If people think you aren’t listening to them, what will they assume it means? What will this lead to?

The next time something is really bothering you, notice if something holds you back from sharing that with someone. What fears or expectations do you have about what would happen if you shared? And if you do share, what happens?”

The rest of Mindy’s thoughtful article can be found here.

Being present and listening can be helpful to someone. Your friend or family member might just need someone to talk to, so they can empty part of what they’re carrying, a way to problem solve, or process what they’re going through. As a listener, a response isn’t always required. Be there for someone by listening to their story and letting them know that you care. Don’t underestimate the power of just listening, it’s helpful.

Harmony Trail, Harmony, PA

Easy Health Strategies From Head-To-Toe


Photo by Pexels

Guest article provided by Lisa Walker of neighborhoodsprout.org

Many of us may feel constantly confronted with self-care messages. However, maintaining your health can be challenging when you’re balancing a busy schedule. We live in a culture that puts a lot of pressure on us to be our best selves, so it’s no surprise that many people feel overwhelmed as a result and give up altogether. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some simple tips on living a balanced life, taking care of ourselves, and looking and feeling fantastic from head-to-toe. Our physical health is just as important as our mental well-being — which professional telemental health counselor Shannon Mick can attest to — but neither works efficiently without the other.

The Connection Between Food and Health

If you feel like you’re always tired, trying to catch up, and can’t seem to get a handle on your mood, your nutrition is a great place to start. It’s easy to pick up fast food when you’re pressed for time. However, this type of food can have a negative effect on your mental health. In fact, when comparing “traditional” Japanese and Mediterranean-style diets (high in seafood, vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed grains) to Western diets (high in processed foods and refined sugar), the result was a 20–35% higher risk of depression in those who observed the latter.

If we don’t feel happy on the inside, we can’t enjoy what we look like on the outside. In the same vein, taking care of our mental fitness is essential if we want to lead fulfilling lives. Nutrient-dense foods are more than building blocks for a beautiful physique — they are critical for our state of mind. Proper nourishment and healthy eating habits can improve your energy, boost your mood, build self-esteem, reduce symptoms of depression, and enhance cognitive function. 

Self-Care Varies For Different People

We can’t be great spouses, friends, employees, or parents if we don’t look after ourselves with care. Know that maintaining strong mental health can look different for different people. Additionally, different varieties of stress require different forms of relief. Many extroverts gravitate towards social functions as a means to release stress, while introverts turn inwards and recharge through solitary activities. 

But the fact is, many people’s personalities lie somewhere in the middle, and they may enjoy different things on different days. This means that great ways to relieve stress really do vary and may include playing sports or games with friends, teletherapy or counseling with Shannon, going for a walk with a partner, or reading a book (to name just a few). Whatever your needs may be, it’s critical to listen and honor what your body and mind require at any given time.

Feel Great, Look Great

You don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort — there are ways to look great without feeling constricted. Clothes influence how we feel. We all have special outfits we wear when we’re feeling confident, so why not endeavor to feel like that every day? 

There are plenty of ways to incorporate comfortable clothing into your daily wardrobe. If you enjoy lounging at home, it’s a great idea to invest in nice lounge pants that let you work out, walk the dog, and run after your kids while still feeling both comfortable and chic. Throwing on a blazer can be a great way to spruce up this loungewear look. Alternatively, treat yourself to a modest purchase like trendy glasses to elevate an outfit. 

The Bottom Line

Physical and mental health are hot topics these days. Everyone’s got something to say, which can be overwhelming. However, at the most fundamental level, you simply can’t go wrong with a proper diet and mental health maintenance. Caring for your body with healthy foods and therapeutic discourse will ultimately make for a strong mind, stunning physique, and a better headspace for enjoying life. Get in touch with Shannon for a free initial consultation.

Are You Ready for Change? I’m ready to help.

Coffee, set, go!

I’m ready to help you tackle change.

I help people:

  • Learn how to manage worry and anxiety.
  • Learn how to better regulate emotions.
  • Through life transitions.
  • Learn how to take better care of their mental health.
  • Make positive, lasting change.
  • Get in touch with what’s actually going on underneath the problem.

I’m working with people all over the state of Pennsylvania. If you’d like to learn more about my telemental health services, browse my website or send me an email.

Maybe we’re a good fit to work together?

Be well!

Session Framework: what our sessions might look

Initial session

  • Introduce myself and give a little information on my credentials.
  • Check your valid photo ID to verify that you are who you say you are.
  • Review the In Case of Emergency plan. I’ll also review who your emergency contact is with you and jot down your current location address.
  • Review the housekeeping paperwork that you completed, such as the Notice of Privacy Practices and Informed Consents.
  • Briefly talk about the SimplePractice platform and what’s available to you through your client portal.
  • I’ll answer any questions that you may have.
  • Review the Intake Questionnaire that you completed.
  • Collaborate on the Treatment Plan, covering issues or symptoms that you’d like to work on, goals and outcomes, and steps towards those goals and managing symptoms.
  • Discuss anything you could work on in between the initial session and the second session. If appropriate, I’ll probably suggest that you have a private journal or notebook to take notes during sessions and to use throughout the week.
  • Answer any questions that you may have.

Regular sessions

  • Hello!
  • Verify your current location address.
  • Check-in. Talk about how your week was and how you’re doing.
  • If we need to, review the Treatment Plan.
  • Talk about things going on and work towards your goals that reflect the Treatment Plan. How we work towards your goals is 100% unique to you. We will also identify your strengths and interests and where we can use them.
  • Discuss what you could work on over the next week.

You Can Seek Help at Any Time: Rate Your Distress Scale

Use this distress scale to help you stay more aware of how you are doing. The scale is 0 to 10, where 0 is that you feel at peace and are completely calm, and 10 is distress that is so unbearable that you cannot function. Refer to the scale, as-needed. If you find yourself rated at 4, where negative thoughts begin to impact you, consider talking to a mental health professional because it is better to get help sooner than later. Don’t allow yourself to be in a distressful state for too long. When you feel change is needed, take action and contact someone.

Seek help from a mental health professional at any time, you do not need to be in distress to get help. A professional counselor can provide services for things such as managing stress and anxiety, examining thoughts and behaviors, support you in life transitions, and teach you how to strengthen your mind.

0: Peace and complete calm

1: No real distress, but a slight feeling of unpleasantness

2: A little bit sad or “off”

3: Worried or upset

4: Upset to the point that negative thoughts begin to impact you

5: Upset and uncomfortable

6: Discomfort to the point that you feel a change is needed

7: Discomfort dominates your thoughts and you struggle not to show it

8: Panic takes hold

9: Feeling desperate, helpless, and unable to handle it

10: Unbearably upset to the point that you cannot function and may be on the verge of a breakdown

Download this rate your distress scale below.

Red Rock Canyon, NV

Reflective Listening for Couples

Practice reflective listening in your relationship for better communication.

A few reasons why couples argue and struggle to communicate well:

  • Real-world issues: different opinions on finances, family, raising children, and things going on within the home.
  • Attachment issues: this can be presented as couples fighting about how they fight.
  • Communication itself: a person has lack of empathy, when people don’t really listen, and when people are defensive.

Let’s just focus on addressing the communication itself:

In unhealthy communication:

If it’s important enough for couples to fight over, then it’s important to work on it.  A healthy couple listens to their partner’s concerns.  If it matters to one person, then it’s worth the time needed for the other person to understand.

In unhealthy communication, people spend a lot of their energy getting their point across and defending themselves. They don’t actively hear out the other person, instead they are figuring out what to say next.

Reflective listening:

Reflective listening is about finding out what’s actually occurring on a deeper level for the other person.

Think of it as being a third person, where you are no longer in the problem, you’re working together to solve it. “Us verse the problem,” not “me verse you verse the problem.”

An example, one spouse might say, in a relieved and uplifted tone of voice, “I didn’t you we’re thinking that.”  or “I had no idea, and it makes me feel disheartened to hear you felt that way”.

How to do reflective listening:

Reflective listening is a slowed down conversation, which requires time and paying attention. It increases awareness to the situation.

The couple needs to approach this exercise with a real desire to resolve an issue and a willingness to actively listen. Listen to learn and understand.

They need to be willing to try to experience what the other person is feeling as they speak, and being open and honest about those feelings. This might be the most challenging part; acknowledging, experiencing, and coping with the stronger emotions.

This exercise helps build trust.

The exercise:

Because it’s a conversation, one person is the speaker and the other is the listener. One chooses to speak first while the other listens. Later, the roles are swapped.

The speaker chooses a topic and may start with: “I’d like to talk about …”.

The speaker uses one short sentence at a time. It needs to be short because the other person has to repeat it and feel what it’s like, and it also prevents long-winded monologues and emotions from rising.

The listener only listens, and when the person who is speaking is finished with their sentence, then the listener repeats back what they heard: “What I heard you say was…”.

*The listener is not allowed to embellish or give their side to the argument, that comes later.*

The speaker continues and corrects the listener if what they heard wasn’t what they said.

“What I actually said was…” or “That’s not quite right, I said…”.

*The listener’s role is important, and they should stay aware and involved. Robotically repeating what the speaker is saying does not work.*  

The speaking and listening arrangement continues until the speaker has finished what they wanted to say and feels heard and understood.

Swap roles:

The speaker becomes the listener and the listener becomes the speaker.

Repeat the speaking and listening arrangement.

After the second speaker is finished and feels heard and understood, the first speaker may want to go again. This activity continues in an open-ended manner until they have completed what they wanted to say and feel they have been heard correctly.

Reflective listening is a way of checking-in with ourselves because the slowed down communication allows us to have the time to reflect on what is most important. We actively listen, giving time to understand and connect on a deeper level with our partner.

From start to end, this exercise may take 5 to 30 minutes.

What to avoid doing:

  • The listener should not be thinking about what you want to say while they’re supposed to be listening.
  • Don’t push for an outcome.
  • Be respectful, don’t interrupt.
  • Avoid summarizing or robotically repeating back what you’ve heard.
  • Avoid disagreement with the speaker, until it is your turn to be the speaker.

Practice this exercise:

This exercise becomes easier the more that it is practiced. Check-in when you are unsure that you understand what is happening for your partner; or you can ask your partner to reflect back what you have said, if you feel it is important and want to make sure they are not making assumptions or jumping to conclusions. It may take some time and practice at the beginning, but it is well worth the effort. Talking becomes safer and trust is built up.

Keep in mind, that when some people first start practicing reflective listening, they might have difficulty breaking their own negative habits like interrupting, dismissing, and rushing to fix a problem with a solution.

When this exercise becomes familiar, then it can be used just to check that you have really understood what is happening for the other person. Another benefit is that it saves you from arguing and the emotional pain that arguing causes.

Reflective listening is a way of showing that you want to problem solve together and improve communication.

Download this exercise below.

Gerard Hiking Trail, Oil Creek State Park, PA