Empathic Listening is defined as an active process to discern what a person is saying.  We know that lasting change comes through relationship based treatment.  Empathic listening is an essential part of building those relationships with each young lady who attends Sunrise.  It is also an essential skill for any parent looking to improve their relationship with their daughter.  Here are 5 key elements of Empathic Listening to help guide you through conversations with your daughter:

  • Be Nonjudgmental:  Working in a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) we admit girls from all over the world with many different backgrounds.  Because of this when they are talking about their past or about a situation with a peer it is important to be non-judgmental.  It would be hard to work in an RTC if my first instinct was to judge someone on her life experiences.
  • Be Present:  As the Residential Director I often times find myself lost in emails or phone calls through out the day.  It was important for me to set aside time and to make a conscious effort to leave my desk, and my phone, and interact with the girls.  When a student approaches me to talk I put my phone away to really give the student my full attention.
  • Allow Silence for Reflection:  One of the skills we teach at Sunrise is to not rescue.  They are fully capable of making their own choices and to figure it out on their own.  Of course I will be there for support, but often times I feel as though the best support is to be present, and allow them to process their emotions.
  • Listen for feelings, not just the facts:  Using the DBT Skill Validation really helps me when practicing Empathic Listening with the girls.  Often times the girls approach me to talk because they want to vent and validate the emotions they may be feeling.  I believe this shows them that I am listening and I understand the emotions they are going through.
  •  Restate to Clarify:  Doing this allows for the student and myself to get on the same page.  It shows her I am listening and that I care about what she is talking about.

– written by Noel Beaulieu, Residential Director
(We adapted these empathetic listening skills from www.crisisprevention.com)