Vita Health

When Is Holding Space Needed?

This is last of our four-part series exploring the concept of holding space for others. 

Author: Cydney Swadinsky, LPC

Cydney is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She holds a National Certified Counselor certification through NBCC and is working with Vita as a mental health therapist. 

When Do You Need To Hold Space for Someone?

This is a fantastic question. How do you know when someone needs you to hold space for them? 

In therapy, it's the expectation — but in real life, it can be hard to know when this type of attention is needed. 

There are actually cues you can look for!

Let’s start with verbal ones. If someone says any of these things, you can bet they’re looking for you to hold space for their emotions or experience: 

  • “I feel silly about this but…”
  • “I thought about this a lot and…”
  • “I feel nervous/anxious about…”
  • “I don’t usually talk about this but…”

Beyond those language cues, there are behavioral signs. If someone is just looking down, weepy, seems uncharacteristically tired or withdrawn, they might need some space for sharing. 

In fact, any time someone seems nervous or uncomfortable with sharing something can be a sign that you need to hold space. 

I have a great tactic to share here! 

A colleague of mine created a code word that her kids use any time they want to tell her something that might make her upset, frustrated, or worried. The word is her cue to hold space for their experience — keeping her immediate reaction to the news at bay. 

This tactic isn’t just for kids. You can use it with friends, family or romantic partners. Establish a single word that lets people know space is needed. 

If you’re in a romantic relationship and you’re constantly frustrated by your partner’s desire to “fix” a scenario, why not establish a way to communicate that space is needed — instead of solutions? If you do this before you start sharing, you're giving them a chance to meet your needs.

At work, this could be an agreement between a manager and a direct report. You could decide on when just "hashing out" a problem or event is needed versus when the direct report is seeking guidance or mentorship .

One more thing. 

Therapists are specifically trained to hold space for our patients and to then guide skill-building to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, suicidality, or other mental health challenges. If you’re in need of that type of support or you believe someone you care about would benefit, please reach out to someone today. 

At Vita, we accept many major insurance carriers and can offer up appointment times within days. 

If you have more questions about holding space (or anything else!) share them with us in the comments on social media. We’re eager to help!


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