Do you have a sense for how often you validate your clients in session?
This one simple intervention (a primary intervention in EFT) is an amazingly powerful tool. If you don’t buy it, just think about the last time someone told you, with sincerity, that you were doing a good job or that they really understood you. For me, when I hear something like that it feels as if my heart actually expands for a moment (I just had an image of the Grinch’s heart breaking the magnifying glass). We all long to be heard, to have someone understand us, and it can be soothing at minimum and transforming at best when it feels like someone does. Especially for the client who has felt so misunderstood, so criticized, so judged—perhaps even called “crazy”—in their marriage or significant relationship.
The trick with validation is, it has to be genuine. We want to use A LOT of validation with our clients, but if you aren’t sure you get what they are saying, don’t validate it yet. It will ring hollow. Use the moment to remind yourself that all behavior makes sense, we just need to take the time and make the space to understand it. (And remember we are looking for it to make sense through our attachment lens). So get curious, continue to explore, perhaps say “I think I’m following you, can you help me with…” or “Can you tell me more about (that), I want so much to understand your experience” or “Can we slow down, this feels so important and I really want to get it”. Remember that you are not only clarifying for yourself, but for the listening partner, and perhaps even for the speaking partner. So take your time.
Then, we you really get it, VALIDATE. Say “Yes, I get that. That makes so much sense!” and maybe “Thank you for helping me understand!” And then you might summarize what it is that makes sense to you.
Other, more interjectory ways to validate as you are exploring are non-verbal head nods (which silently conveys “I am following you”); or a simple “right”, “yes”, “I’m with you”, “I’m following you”, and the very intellectual but usually understood “uh-huh”.
This week, make it a goal to increase the number of times you validate your clients. See how it feels for ALL of you!
Read more about validation in EFT in Sue Johnson’s The Practice of Emotionally Focused Marital Therapy: Creating Connection (Johnson, S.M. (2004). The Practice of Emotionally Focused Marital Therapy: Creating Connection. New York: Bruner / Routledge. – Second Edition of 1996 book.)
Becoming an Emotionally Focused Therapist: The Workbook (S.M. Johnson, Brent Bradley, J Furrow, A Lee, G Palmer, D Tilley & S Woolley (2005) Becoming an Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist : The Work Book. N.Y. Brunner Routledge.)