The Incredible Power of Listening

I find it helpful in moments of feeling my small-ness to touch back on the foundations of  the healing arts – the basics. I remember that the true power of therapeutic work comes in the small elements of joining another person in their emotional space. At the core of  our practice, we bear witness to the narratives of our clients – listeners.

Listening is the small but powerful act of being present with another human in their experience (of pain, or joy, or confusion, or sadness – the particular emotion is not overly important). Listening done well has a far reach, and we can all learn to attune to one another in meaningful ways.

The Power of Holding Space

The presence of another – often regardless of their ability to relate or understand – is enough to bring us back to feeling part of the larger human experience, and pull us out of our own private, lonely orbit. This is because usually, when we seek support, we are not looking for someone to solve our problems; we are looking for someone to sit in the problems with us. We want to know that someone is out there, and that we are truly not as isolated as we sometimes feel. 

A good listener is aware that they do not necessarily need to offer solutions or advice. In fact, to problem-solve is often the lesser response, and usually misses the point entirely. The real power of listening is in the held space, the eye contact, the presence, the silence, and the undivided attention. All of these things communicate, “No, you are not in this alone. I am in it with you.”

The Power of Being Seen

We are compelled to keep parts of ourselves private because we fear that those parts will not be understood by the people around us. We fear that these parts of us are weird or different in some way, or that they are something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. When we bravely dare to share these parts, we are looking for a rebuttal to these fears – for someone to confirm that we are understandable, that we are “normal,” that we can release our shame, that we can be fully seen for who we are.

To listen to someone without judgment is to give them the gift of being seen. In doing so, we validate the other – we hear their experience and assure them that it is relatable and human. When we listen, and we nod, and we smile; when we don’t run away horrified or roll our eyes, we validate their authenticity and humanity. Validation of another person does not require language – to provide a listening ear without judgment is enough. 

The Power of Silence

In the midst of understanding, there is silence.

I believe that it is often harder to sit with someone in pain without trying to DO anything about it, than to talk through the pain to try to ignore or dissipate it. However, it is sometimes kinder to let the words land, even (especially) the painful or shameful ones, and give them room to breathe and to be adequately heard, than to try to sweep them under the rug with cleverly crafted responses. Silence is strong, it is effective, and it is brave.

When we question our abilities to be there effectively for the people we love, we can return, again and again, to the simple art of listening well.

Originally posted on my blog, Common Humanity, at Psych To read more, visit




Useful Information

Some frequently asked questions and useful answers.

Online therapy works in the same way as in-office therapy, but is done online, similar to a Skype or FaceTime conversation. Clients are able to have sessions from home, work, or any other convenient location. We meet with clients using a HIPAA-compliant secure platform.

Online therapy allows you to work with us from the comfort of home, or any private location of your choosing. For some, the screen provides an added layer of comfort that makes the challenging work of being vulnerable in therapy a little easier.

Online therapy also creates the unique opportunity for you to work with us without the constraints of proximity! The practice was born in Keene, New Hampshire, but has since grown to service clients anywhere in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Florida, and New Hampshire.

Online therapy is a great option for clients that travel for work, for college students that go home during the summertime and do not want a break in their sessions, and for anyone with a challenging or inconsistent day-to-day schedule. It is an excellent choice for clients seeking a therapist with a particular specialty that they are unable to find support for locally. Some of our clients report that online therapy makes the vulnerability element of therapy a bit less intimidating.

No. For some clients with more complex symptoms or safety concerns, having a local therapist that is readily available is important in case of crisis or the need for a higher level of care. Online therapy is also a challenge for clients that do not have access to a private, quiet space to be “in session” for the hour, or for those that do not have adequate internet connectivity.

There are several reasons why we don’t accept insurance. The most important are:

Confidentiality. Insurance companies require that your information be shared with them in order to pay for services. We prefer that clients’ information is kept as confidential as possible.

The pressure to diagnose. Insurance companies require that clients are given a mental health diagnosis in order to pay for therapy. We have found that many clients benefit from therapy, but do not meet criteria for a diagnosis. Not using insurance allows clients to access therapy without being given a mental health diagnosis.

Flexibility and freedom. Insurance companies dictate the length and number of sessions they will authorize, as well as when a client is no longer eligible for the benefits of therapy. Because we do not work with insurance panels, you and we can collaborate to determine your individual needs regarding session length, frequency of sessions, and when to terminate therapy.

While we do not accept insurance, many clients choose to submit receipts to their insurance companies to receive reimbursement via out-of-network benefits. We are happy to provide these receipts for you! Please check with your insurance company for details on your benefits.



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