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Therapeutic Communication Model
Written by Terry J. Hodgkinson, July 13th, 2016
Communication is many things to many people. Did you know that communication can be used as a form of therapy? I can hear you now; “well of course communication is therapeutic!” And you would be right in saying so. However, not all communication is intended to be conducive for positive results, never mind therapeutic!
Through my journeys as a Wandering Ninja, my wanderings have taken me to many teachers and I’ve studied many valuable tools for self empowerment and actualization. None have been more powerful and healing as the communication model I am about to share with you now. The picture is with me and Anjali (Rita) Hill. I studied advanced therapeutic communication with her back in the mid 90’s.
At first glance it looks simple, perhaps too simple to really be all that I have said it to be. Rest assured I would never introduce something to you that I have not practiced and experienced first myself and offered to others who are close to me to benefit from, and benefit they have for many years now! On the Enlightenment Intensive retreats that I facilitate we use this communication model quite extensively as one of the components of the Enlightenment Technique, on the journey to having a direct experience of the truth aka Satori.
So I ask you to take a few moments and work at grasping the understanding and simple power of this model. Have a look at the picture below:
This picture comes from a set of manuals I created for my martial arts organization called Beyond Kung Fu Studios. It was mandatory study for all those who wanted to join the instructors training program and eventually teach at our martial arts schools. We held true to the concept that interpersonal communication was ultimately important. If you had excellent communication skills with those you were closest to then your communication ability and feeling of being centred within would carry forward to your students, even in group situations, and you would be a more effective communicator/teacher.
Sure you can look at this model and think, “Ya nothing special” or you can take a little time and put some effort into practicing it! If you do, I’m quite certain you will notice substantial results if you stick with it for a bit. I don’t mean months: I mean even in one session, which could be an hour of your time that you can experience a significant shift within.
The first step is to understand the components to the communication model thoroughly. i.e.
Once you and your partner, whom you are entering into a communication session with, understand these key therapeutic principles you will be on your way. However, it’s not good enough that you simply ‘understand’ them. You must both agree on and embrace these components whole-heartedly, for your communication cycles to be pure and effective.
When you hold the components I’m describing here, in a way to be almost sacred, and understand they are a container of sorts, a guidance system that you adhere to, then you will be making great progress in your communication with yourself and your partner.
To begin, decide who will be the listening partner and who will be the speaking partner first. You start by the listener asking a question (or in a way presenting an instruction to their partner) while maintaining full, soft attention on them. (There are three sample questions that can be used for practice at the bottom of the explanation sheet I’ve provided just above.) Once the question has been presented the listener doesn’t say anything else until the speaking partner has finished their full expression, then a simple but sincere “Thank you” is spoken. The speaking partner should take a little time to receive the question, contemplate it, notice what comes up as a result of that contemplation and then express whatever that is to the listening partner. This cycle (receiving the question, contemplate, notice what comes up as a result of your contemplation and then communicate that to the best of your ability) can take 5 minutes but shouldn’t take too much longer than that. After the cycle is complete and the listing parter has said “thank you”, switch over; the speaking partner becomes the listening partner and the listening partner becomes the speaker and the communication cycle begins again.
When you are the listening partner your ‘part’ is to listen with undivided attention on your partner and not commence so such things as the usual social niceties that most of us do almost unconsciously while interacting. You know, mannerisms like when you shake your head yes or no excessively in reaction to what your partner is saying. or blurting out things like “oh yes I know what you mean” or “I hate that/I love that”. These kind of responses often are the norm in everyday communication but they tend to persuade the person you are in communication with, even if unintentionally, in a way that might suggest you are agreeing or disagreeing with what they are saying. This can influence what they say next. In the communication model I share with you here, it calls for a neutral listening parter, one whose intention is to simply understand their partner’s expression or communication, from THEIR point of view without any judgement or overboard response on your part. That doesn’t mean you have to be a cold, or robot like, it’s merely a simple kind line to not over indulge in the usual norms of interacting that come with their own inherent meaning. What we are doing here is cleaning things up a little, adding a little Zen touch, making communication cycles pure, therapeutic in nature.
Generally speaking it’s best if you are new to this communication model to have someone experienced in this work who can be present as a third person referee. Their sole job is to make sure the components and structure of the model are being followed. This is important, due to the fact, when you get emotional and chances are you will, you often become emotionally charged from the feelings you are experiencing and the component guidelines and structure tend to take a step back out of ones immediate awareness and such break down. Also all communication should be free from guilt trips or directly involving your listening partner. What this means is you don’t want to say something like, “I really hate it when you do this, you’re such an idiot!” or “I don’t know why I’m talking, it’s not like you are capable of understanding me anyways!”. While you feel warranted in saying such things, it won’t help build the affinity that is required to help the healing magic work in communication. If that was true then people would have wonderful communication all the time, yet all too often the reverse is true. When people hear this kind finger pointing or accusing language they tend to detach, shut down or do the very opposite; become quite aggressive!
The third party is there to hold the communication container together, to make sure the two people in communication are flowing within the guidelines and also respecting of each other’s time in the balance of speaking and listening (known as communication model structure).
There is more I could say on how exactly this communication model resolves issues from ones past and helps heal as well as create greater respect building a natural loving cohesiveness between the two communication partners. But I think I will leave that for another article.
On a personal note: I’ve healed many old emotional wounds from childhood practicing this communication model. When you are not received well in your communication (your ability to feel like someone has really understood you) with another then old, un-received communications of yours that have not been delivered will tend to stack up in your mind’s outbox. Sometimes for many people they stack up so high that they can’t really see their way anymore and break down as healthy, functional human beings. If people continue to have unresolved communication issues, this can result in neuroses, or even psychosis.
So if you are ready for a change and crave greater connection with important people in your life while needing to feel lighter, less weight on your shoulders, and a greater sense inner contentment, I urge you to give this a shot! If you need further guidance with this model all you need to do is reach out and contact me. I’m available for a free consultation and assistance.