After being more open to and aware of different communication channels with children, therapists tend to verbalize them. When children, for example, play out traumatic experiences with dolls, we want to name what is being played. Either we want to let them know that we saw what they are playing. Sometimes we even connect it to their traumatic experiences directly in order to let them know that we connect what they are showing here-and-now to what happened there-and-then. Or we interrupt the silence during painting by posing questions about the painting. This oververbalisation not rarely leads to blocking the communication process of children which in turn results in faster ending paintings/drawings or play breaks. It is interesting to check within ourselves what our motives are to break the silence or the flow of children. Are we ourselves uncomfortable by mirroring children and adolescents in non-verbal channels such as bodily expression? Are we uncomfortable with silence? Are we absolutely wanting to convey to children we are there for them, fully present in the moment? We all have experienced those tendencies. However, that overly wording our emotional presence for children can become exhausting. They might feel chased, totally overstimulated or pressured to be as verbal as the therapist.
We need to find confidence that we are not helping children any less by saying less words. The silent therapist is for sure not the same as the inactive therapist. The silent therapist takes the time to let the child’s rich communication flow into his or her mind. They attach their evoked emotions (countertransference), associations, and thoughts to it. They talk about these mental processes evoked by the therapy with colleagues or supervisors. Thereby, links can be made to the child’s symptoms, history and underlying dynamics. This in turn leads to a therapeutic stance that is better adjusted to foster the child’s or adolescent’s developmental and behavioral needs. Personally, when I am more silent during the session itself, my reflection afterwards tends to be richer as I am more present in the moment.