Jessica L. Borelli Ph.D.



In Therapy, I Give You My Nothing, and It Means Everything

Why pausing can be the most powerful intervention in therapy.

Posted Mar 13, 2019

Shutter/used with permission
Source: Shutter/used with permission

The most important thing I give my clients may be absolutely nothing. And it could mean everything. Let me explain.

So often in our daily lives, we move through conversations quickly, breezing through, or rather past, communications. It’s so easy to miss the meaning underneath, the space between the words, the parts in between. But in the therapy room, psychotherapists slow down, pause. We find you where you are. And we hold you in that place.

So powerful is that small action. But actually, it’s an everything action. I know it’s everything because it can be the hardest thing to train new therapists to do. It’s also often the last thing a client wants done to them—to keep them in that place—in the space of being held in the last thing the client said, in the thought or feeling they were trying to move out of just as it escaped their lips, the one we therapists won’t let pass unnoticed. Not just yet.

When you, my client, say how you feel— Maybe I just felt, a bit, alone that day—we linger just a little longer there.

My pause, my eyes fixed steadily on yours, the time I spend there—each second adds more to the importance I place on the possibility that those feelings existed for you. In waiting, in holding you there, I help create the opportunity for you to imagine, to allow that possibility—what if? 

Would it be okay if you did feel alone? Is that allowed? Can we contemplate that possibility together? Here we can, here we will. Here we did. Together.

That pause: So little, but perhaps so much.