Counselling in Oxford

Bill Imlah :: Counselling in Oxfordshire



Blog » When people cry in counselling


11 Apr 2014

As a counsellor, it's important to know how to work with people who are crying.

In everyday settings, people's natural inclination and cultural conditioning may lead them to have the strong impulse to comfort someone who's crying - to placate and soothe. They might also display a discomfort that prompts the person to stop, or makes it feel less safe for them to start crying.

But these impulses and reactions aren't helpful in the counselling context.

If you cry in counselling, it's a sign that emotional processing is taking place, that feelings are being expressed, with a chance to work with them productively.

What I usually do when someone I'm working with cries, is respectfully give them space. I give them my attention but don't interrupt with questions; I let them stay with the feeling.

If there are tissues in the room, but out of their reach, I might put the box next to them, giving them the choice as to whether they use them, but not handing them a tissue - as that may interrupt the process if they don't want it.

Exploring what the crying means for them is something I'd do afterwards. What helped them feel able to cry - what was the thought that brought it on? In this context, exploring their thinking and feelings in the moment can help me understand the import of their tears.

As a counsellor, having the confidence to know that people's crying is helpful for the processing of their emotions, and the ability to relax and be attentive in the presence of their tears, tends to help people to open up, and to feel heard and cared-about.

Images used in this blog.