Each day we interact with many different kinds of people.  Some of them include our family, our friends, our coworkers, possibly our doctors, the barista at Starbucks, etc. Being able to communicate can greatly impact how we are perceived and how we perceive others. Did you know that there is even a difference in the type of communication we portray?  Some communication is reactive and might be how we feel at the moment while other communication is considered “therapeutic”.

Therapeutic communication is when you base your response and your style around who you are talking to. You can exercise this type of communication with any of those people I listed above and really anyone that you come in contact with.  So what does therapeutic communication look like?

Verbal versus nonverbal communication

It is suggested that 10% of what we communicate is verbal and about 90% is nonverbal.  That’s why it’s important to be mindful of our nonverbal actions when we communicate with others.  Those include our facial expressions, how close we stand to the other person and our gestures (to list a few). If you are mindful of how you are responding to someone’s message it can greatly impact how that person feels you are responding. For example it might be appropriate to nod when you understand what someone is saying along with maintaining eye contact with them.

Using silence

Some of us get nervous when there are moments of silence in the conversation. I do!  I always want to talk.  Don’t do this!  Silence is actually a powerful tool. Sometimes when a person is trying to tell you a story or talk with you about a difficult issue, they might take longer and appreciate a few moments of silence to gather their thoughts before they continue to talk.  Don’t feel obligated to fill this time.  Simply listen, nod, and be silent with them.


Have you ever listened to a friend’s story or message and thought they were talking about one subject when in fact they might have been talking about another?  That’s why clarifying what is being said is a great technique.  It’s ok to say “In other words you were saying…” or something similar.  This will help the person talking feel you are not only listening to them, but that you understand what they are saying.

Use of questions

There are close-ended questions such as “are you hot?” or “are you happy?” which the person can respond with a “yes” or “no”.  Try to use these sparingly. There are also open-ended questions such as “tell me more” or “how do you feel” that are considered much more therapeutic. By asking an open-ended question this allows the person to express how they feel and to go in to more depth on their topic.

There are many more ways to communicate in a therapeutic way but I hope these have you thinking about interactions with those around you and how you can be an active and engaged listener when they share a story next time.

If you have any questions or if there is something you would like to talk about further, please contact us today.

**Please note: This content should not be taken as an official diagnosis. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the topics discussed, please contact Joyce Kay Hamilton to schedule an appointment by visiting or calling 214-823-2861.