Demystifying the Language of Therapy
Therapy might seem daunting, and that’s to be expected! It might seem like there is a whole other world of feeling language and phrases used in healing spaces that aren’t commonly used in everyday speech. We are here to help you demystify the language of therapy, by breaking down some of the terms we commonly use in the therapy space.
Radical acceptance is different from everyday acceptance. Radical acceptance means consciously trying to accept an outcome you are struggling to move past (a certain event, trauma, or loss).
For example, in an oversimplified analogy, you might find yourself in a situation where a partner has broken up with you. Lack of acceptance might involve thinking things like, “this isn’t fair,” “this shouldn’t have happened,” “this should have played out differently,” “why is this happening to me,” etc. Your relationship to the event is defined by refusing to accept what happened or being unable to let go of how something happened. Practicing radical acceptance will guide you toward a thinking pattern that more closely resembles, “this event happened, now what does this mean for my life, my emotional state, or my perception of myself?”
Radical acceptance is not the same as forgiveness or excusing trauma or abuse as “okay.” It is not applicable in any situation that is abusive or dangerous. Instead, radical acceptance is coming to terms with something and leaning into healing with the acceptance that whatever has happened cannot be changed.
Doing the Work:
Doing the work refers to each person having their own emotional work to do depending on their individual circumstances. For example, working with a therapist on learning to live in the present, taking stock of your emotions and sorting through experiences to process them in a healthy way. This might also look like reevaluating your lifestyle, work environment, relationships, etc. and reflecting upon the boundaries or what is/isn’t serving you. In the context of relationships, “doing the work” might involve learning how to pause and consider how you respond to different triggers or how to react to those around you in more productive ways. It almost always involves sitting in some discomfort, but the goal is to get closer to yourself and develop a more fulfilling lifestyle.
Holding space means being present for someone in an emotional, physical, and mental capacity. The person in that space can then process, acknowledge, and experience their emotions as fully as possible. You can do this for yourself or someone else. Your therapist does this for you at every session! This is an active process of being an engaged and empathetic listener.
A critical part of holding space is reserving judgment and facing that person (or yourself) with compassion, love, and kindness, as well as leaving expectations at the door. This allows the space to be genuinely vulnerable and honest. If you are holding space for someone, you would avoid asserting your advice over their healing process and allow them to be as they are. Holding space isn’t a time for centering yourself, unless you’re doing it for yourself or someone else is holding space for you. It isn’t a time for problem solving, it is a space to just be.
Reframing is a tool and therapeutic technique used for providing alternative mindsets and viewing difficult situations in new ways. If a negative thought pattern persists, it can be helpful to find a new view of the situation at hand. The reframe may be more neutral or more positive in nature. Reframing can make a conflict be it internal or external, clearer and easier to approach. Imagine someone has lost their job or a potential employment opportunity didn’t work out. Reframing might involve thinking, “What has this experience taught me about myself and others? What doors have been opened as a result of this one closing?” It also may involve challenging negative thoughts that the person may have about themselves and their experience.
To clarify, this does not mean invalidating someone’s experience and telling them to just “be more positive.” Reframing requires readiness to see from a different viewpoint, that also comes from the person doing the work, not necessarily the therapist or another person involved. Offering an alternative perspective must involve compassionately recognizing the validity of where one’s emotional state is at any given moment.
Clark, Arthur. “Reframing: A Therapeutic Technique in Group Counseling.” The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, vol. 23, no. 1, 31 Jan. 2008. Taylor & Francis Online.
Cuncic, Arlin. “What Is Radical Acceptance?” Verywell Mind, 26 May 2021, www.verywellmind.com/what-is-radical-acceptance-5120614.
Hall, Karyn. “Radical Acceptance.” Psychology Today, 8 July 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201207/radical-acceptance.
Hanson, Aniesa. “What “Doing the Work” in Therapy Looks Like.” Aniesa Hanson Counseling – Tampa Counseling, 16 July 2019, aniesahanson.com/what-doing-the-work-in-therapy-looks-like/#:~:text=Here%27s%20what%20%E2%80%9CDoing%20The%20Work%E2%80%9D%20may%20look%20like%20in%20therapy%3A&text=Knowing%20how%20observe%20all%20of.
Morin, Amy. “How Cognitive Reframing Is Used in Mental Health.” Verywell Mind, 2019, www.verywellmind.com/reframing-defined-2610419.
Taylor, Melanie. “What It Really Means to Hold Space for Yourself.” Life of Wellness Institute, 12 Sept. 2018, www.lifeofwellness.ca/2018/09/12/what-it-really-means-to-hold-space-for-yourself/.
Vora, Ellen. “What It Means to “Do the Work.”” Ellen Vora, MD, 5 Feb. 2020, ellenvora.com/what-it-means-to-do-the-work/.
“What “Holding Space” Means + 5 Tips to Practice.” G&STC, Gender and Sexuality Therapy Center: The Psychotherapy Group, 17 Jan. 2021, www.gstherapycenter.com/blog/2020/1/16/what-holding-space-means-5-tips-to-practice#:~:text=%E2%80%9CHolding%20space%E2%80%9D%20means%20being%20physically.