One of my lovely clients sent me a note recently, thanking me for ‘creating a container’ in which she felt ‘safe enough’ to open up and delve deep into what was going on for her.
It’s probably the most important thing that any coach, counsellor or therapist does— ‘create a safe container’ or ‘hold the space’ for their clients.
But what does it actually mean? What does ‘holding the space’ actually look like? And why is it such an essential part of the coaching and counselling process?
It’s a skill that can be learned, but only to an extent. Many of us are drawn to the therapeutic professions because holding space is something we do intrinsically — it’s a knack we have, if you will. And it’s a knack we find difficult to quantify (which is maybe why some of us find ourselves at odds with some of the methods used in counselling training, but that’s for another time…) and something we just do, something that’s just part of our own way of being.
Which is pertinent, because it’s really all about ‘being’.
Being totally committed to being there, in the present, all in, with the person you’re with. Parking your own stuff (but not in a diminishing way, and not behind a locked door, because your stuff’s important too and at the right moment it might be the right thing to do to touch base with and refer to your own stuff if it’s helpful for the person you’re with), not interrupting, really listening (not just looking as if you’re listening), making no assumptions, not admonishing, not shaming and not trying to ‘fix’ things. It’s all about sitting with the pain, suffering, confusion, joy, anger or sorrow of the person you’re with, without any preconceived ideas, or expectations or embarrassment.
And it’s all about doing all of those things from a place of genuine kindness and compassion.
You know, it always feels like a privilege when someone trusts me enough, even after the shortest of introductions or meetings, to relax into the space I’m holding for them.
After all, it’s where the magic happens. In that space. In that atmosphere of empathy. It’s where you feel heard, understood and supported, and it empowers and enables you to better move through whatever you’re experiencing rather than push against it.
So, when you come to me, it’s not me who heals you, who gives you the strength to make changes and who empowers you to pursue your wants and dreams — you’ll find your own way to do all of that. You already have it in you.
My job is to help you find it, and I'll be here to hold the space while you do…