January 17, 2023
Have you ever felt “held” in the presence of another? As if nothing you are doing in the present moment is wrong, and that you are accepted and appreciated as you are? Teary, snot-nosed and all, you are allowed to just be...you. Nobody telling you what to do next, how to approach a problem, or that you should stop feeling an emotion. They simply sit with you, right here, where you are.
If so, you were likely in the presence of the warm hug and hold of “space”.
Space held by others can be extremely powerful when a person is grieving a significant loss, in the midst of a painful depression, or dealing with trauma (GoodTherapy, 2017). Holding space is not limited to the most challenging or heartbreaking times, but is a constant, basic need for all people. Even if you have never experienced a painful grief or never felt the grips of depression, holding space is essential-for all people. We all need the benefits of feeling held in the presence of another. True human connection and healing requires a place to be ourselves and to be accepted as we are. Therapists are trained as compassionate, caring, and present space holders who know how to cradle the human heart. Holding space is providing true care and empathy.
Often, it is not the advice a therapist provides to a client nor the modality used that provides the most impactful results, but the therapist’s accepting and attentive presence. It is the therapist’s art of holding empathic space.
Holding space sounds simple, but it is a practice (GoodTherapy, 2017). It means the therapist being centered in the present moment, managing their own fears, triggers, and automatic responses to any given situation (GoodTherapy, 2017). Often, this is why skilled therapists are wonderful containers. They rarely feel the need to fill up space with conversation, suggestions, or recommendations to ward off their own discomfort. Many times, family and friends will take up space instead of expanding your own. Your tears, big emotions, or even angry venting should not scare your therapist. Instead, your therapist invites, welcomes, and allows for the existence and release of these feelings. The therapy room is big enough to hold you. All of you- every uncomfortable, doubtful, or shameful part of you is welcome here.
Being held in the gentle hold of space feels like a complete acceptance, an unwavering kindness enveloping your being even in the midst of your tears, fear, and uncertainty. It is the feeling of not having to shield others from what you are feeling in the moment. Having space held feels like the ultimate permission to be you. We all need this space to be who we are. A mother’s opinion, an embarrassing childhood memory, a confession of infidelity… whatever it is that needs to be held, will be carefully and honorably held at our practice. The space here is big enough for you.
Pearl, R. (2017). 11 things that will help you hold space for someone. GoodTherapy.org. [Web article]. Retrieved from: