Blissful Therapists: Holding Space…as Therapists and in “These Streets”
You may have heard this or used this term if you are a therapist. But do we understand what this means and looks like in the therapy space and our daily lives? You may say to yourself, “yes I do!” and if you do, GREAT! This may not be the blog for you.
However, I challenge the people I supervise, the people I work with, and myself to examine holding space further so that we can be sure that we are doing it.
It is kind of like embarking on a healthy eating plan. You may have a goal to track what you were eating. You may have assumed, “Oh I don’t need to track. I think I am doing pretty good with healthy eating.” But then, after tracking 1 day, you look at things and realize, "OH! Maybe I am not doing this as well as I could be."
We typically tend to over or underestimate things without being intentional with our efforts. Being intentional with holding space is the same concept that I would like for therapists to bring to the therapy space and into their lives in general.
What I have gathered about “holding space” through reading The Reader’s Digest, is plain and simple. You make it about someone else, and not about yourself.
Try as we might, it is very hard to refrain from projecting your wants, needs, and agenda onto someone else. We hijack others’ spaces. We want to see them do well, feel good, thrive, etc. We may project our own beliefs and ideas onto others mistakenly believing that this is what care, support, and love is.
Sometimes we may not even be aware that we are not holding space. But we aren’t.
“We judge. We come in with our angles, views, wants, and needs. Instead of holding space, we grab it. And sometimes, we disguise it as love.”
If you have done this, I first want to say do not beat yourself up. Many of us did not learn how to hold space. Many of us may have grown up in environments and spaces where people were not holding space for us. Possibly not intentionally. But, the folks who were in those spaces, caring for us probably were not held space for either and therefore, could not model or teach it.
Why is holding space even important?
In any relationship, including a therapy relationship, if someone does not feel safe being themselves, speaking about their thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants, or they do not feel heard or seen. The relationship will struggle and most probably, will not last. People will hide. People will become resentful. People will not trust them. People will get stuck. People will retreat. You will most likely have a façade of a relationship. And if the person doesn’t walk away, at the very least the relationship will be stagnant and will fail to thrive.
So how can you practice holding space? Consider practicing the following:
● Be with someone without judgment.
● Donate your ears and heart without wanting anything back.
● To practice empathy and compassion.
● Accept someone's truth, no matter what they are.
● To allow and accept.
● Embrace with two hands instead of pointing with one finger.
● To come in neutral. Open. For them. Not you.
● Holding space means putting your needs and opinions aside and allowing someone to just be themselves.
I challenge anyone reading this to track how they hold space and work on practicing it.
ALL of your relationships and the people in them will thank you!!
Kim, LMFT, J. (2019, October). What Does It Mean/Look Like to Hold Space for Someone? Psychology Today.