Therapeutic Listening

Therapeutic Listing - toolshero

This article explains Therapeutic Listening in a practical way. After reading, you will understand the basic concepts of this powerful tool of communication and information gathering process.

Cognitive learning is important for the development of different types of aspects of communication, such as language, writing and listening. These are important factors for the processing of information and as a result achieving knowledge. This article will focus on the auditory process and the importance of Therapeutic Listening for the benefit of the human being.

Before delving into the method of Therapeutic Listening, some essential questions must be answered in order to develop an understanding on the main topic. What is listening? How is cognitive learning connected to listening? Which communication skills can be developed?

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What is listening?

Listening is the process of listening to sounds of the environment in both a conscious and unconscious way and being able to organize the sounds in association with our mental attention in order to collect information. This process is part of the sensory system which is part of the nervous system and in which, apart from hearing, sight, smell, touch and taste are also involved. Focusing only on the ear, it should be noted that the auditory system conducts sounds by means of sound waves that are in space.

As this is a biological process that develops and must be stimulated either by the natural environment or by tactics to develop deeper skills, it is vital for the reception of communication by human beings.

By separating this auditory-sensory system a little from the theoretical explanation, it is necessary to transcend the importance of listening and mark the differences that this term brings. Listening goes beyond a physical, biological process, but is the attention to the processing of information that is linked to emotions and thought.

What is Therapeutic Listening?

Therapeutic listening is the process of gathering information and exchanging communication from a therapeutic setting where emotions are vital to the processing and sharing of information. It is also a method for improving verbal and non-verbal understanding of communication.

This method has been used in the health sector in the treatment of patients and children for the development of confidence, sensory experience, interpersonal, social and cognitive skills in the behaviour of people who put Therapeutic Listening into practice.

Trust and empathy are pillars in this therapeutic concept of listening. Being careful and honest with the listening is vital for the other person to be able to express themselves freely and thus understand their thoughts and emotions that go beyond words, as these words are linked to the body language and eye contact that are used to communicate.

When a person is listening they tend to fall into one of these categories: non-listener, marginal listener, evaluative listener and active listener.

In Therapeutic Listening, certain skills can be developed according to the practice that the person employs in listening to the other and the therapeutic objectives that he or she wishes to achieve. For this there are some levels that can develop the following communication skills:

Active Listening

This is the highest level of listening as there is efficient communication involved. In this category the person is listened to carefully and is not interrupted while the person is expressing himself. The active listener asks questions and also uses body gestures to help understand the speaker who has all the attention and importance in the moment.

In active listening, non-verbal expressions are also part of efficient communication. Good posture and visual connection allows the speaker to feel confident in expressing themselves. Attention and silence are key factors in this category. A good listening attitude, the ability to listen and the opportunity for conversation and feedback makes this category efficient.

Reflective Listening

Reflective listening is common among professionals who offer psychological or medical help. In this category, the story the speaker is telling is not modified as it is necessary to know the speaker’s version. Also be attentive in all your speech because most of the times the speaker is going through a difficult situation in his life, so it is necessary for the listener to have all his attention.

Comprehensive listening

At this level the listener has the ability to process everything the speaker says in a fast and clear way in real time resulting in the understanding of what the speaker is expressing.

These three levels can go hand in hand in a conversation, each level can have its own level of depth according to the moment it is needed. Also, listening skills are gradually emerging.

Therapeutic Listening tips

Non-verbal participation

Pay attention to the speaker. Focus on what that person is saying. Offering words or gestures that reinforce listening can connect the speaker and make them understand that attention is complete on them.

Focus on the message

In this advice, it is necessary to focus also on the emotions, voice and posture that the speaker reflects when telling his or her story. Non-verbal language can help to live the message much more intensely, by trying to be in the other’s shoes.

Do not judge

Do not give an opinion or comment on everything the speaker says, but it is important to collect the information and if it is important to share feedback what the person said.

Tolerate silence

It is important to know how to tolerate silence in a conversation, silence does not mean disinterest in the subject being discussed, it can more easily help to be in concentration with what the speaker is saying and lead to understanding and reflection.


Repeat the last words of the speaker or giving key words that the message is being understood so that the person has confidence that they are connected to the topic and that the conversation is interesting.

Leave selfishness behind

When it comes to intervening or changing the subject of a conversation and being the speaker now and not the listener, it is advisable to do so in the most empathetic and respectful way possible.

Negative aspects that prevent effective listening

There are certain negative aspects that prevent efficient listening and should be kept in mind in order to overcome and not fall into error when having a conversation:

  • Divided attention, doing several things at once when you are listening to someone.
  • Attention to ourselves, committing yourself to listening to the other person.
  • Not having time to listen: to the other person and going in a hurry.
  • Pretending to listen.
  • To play down what someone else says, because they disagree.

Verbal and non-verbal communication as a complement to listening

Verbal communication

  • It is important to be able to get feedback from the listener.
  • Using a good tone of voice this can be a quiet tone with an acceptable volume.
  • Ask open-ended, non-judgmental questions.

Non-verbal communication

  • Visual contact.
  • Showing interest with facial and body gestures.
  • Show awareness and sensitivity to the emotions expressed by the speaker.
  • Silence to encourage the speaker to express himself without interruption.

With the good use of verbal and non-verbal communication, communication between two or more people will have the positive result of healthy interaction and the development of trust for those involved in the situation.

Apart from listening as an essential communicative factor for good relationships, psychological accompaniment, and even for professional and personal life, it is important to address other factors of Listening as Therapy.

Therapeutic listening based on sound

Hate has an important role in the nervous system, which is why sensory integration in Therapeutic Listening has been widely used with children for their behaviour and learning and cognitive development.

Listening Therapy is based on electronically altered music to improve sensory processing, attention and communication skills in infants. Sound waves are passed to the neural pathways to improve self-regulation in children.

These sensory studies have shown that children respond positively to these processes. The Listening Therapy is used in children with autistic disorders, with attention deficit, hyperactivity among others, where music is used as therapy for the development of communication skills in the stages of learning, anxiety reduction, improvement of personal skills, social behaviour, personal care and body management.

Benefits of Theurapeutic Listening

Therapeutic Listening can help both children and adults on issues such as

  • Focus and attention
  • Orderly behaviour
  • Social and communication skills
  • Sensory behaviour
  • Posture control
  • Motor skills
  • Sleep and nutrition patterns
  • Positive response to sounds and verbal instructions

This practice aims to promote attention and calm in the brain in situations of stress.

Therapeutic Listening can be done in 30 minute sections every day of the week, however, this will depend on what the person needs.

Therapeutic Listening summary

Listening goes beyond the biological process that human beings have. It is possible to hear while being present in the same space as an interlocutor, however, it is necessary to be focused on the gestures and the message that this person is saying in order to validate the listening and connect with the cognitive process of thinking and learning while being attentive to the communication.

We must also remember that listening is one of the most basic and important forms of communication that exists. Without good listening conflict resolution, strategy planning, personal and social life would not be in balance. This is why the importance of Therapeutic Listening as a stimulating base of tranquillity, confidence and empathy, will make it easier for people to develop social and expressive skills.

Therapeutic Listening is a great way to put listening into practice and develop skills that need to be improved in daily life. For children, this method is a good option for breaking down interpersonal and social barriers at the child’s stage of development. Apart from the use of healthy supportive conversation, music and sounds can also be used as a form of therapeutic listening in the development of communication and social skills, and even positive behaviour, so that the child can feel safe and calm by clearing the mind with something artistic and communicative.

It’s your turn

What do you think? Does Therapeutic Listening go beyond a conversation between one or more people? Have you put this method into your daily life to improve communication skills? Did you know that Therapeutic Listening can also be based on music? Do you have anything else to add or any suggestions you would like to share?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Wolvin, A. D., & Coakley, C. G. (1985). Listening. Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 2460 Kerper Blvd., Dubuque, IA 52001.
  2. Kemper, B. J. (1992). Therapeutic listening: developing the concept. Journal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services, 30(7), 21-23.
  3. Watanuki, S., Tracy, M. F., & Lindquist, R. (2006). Therapeutic listening. Complementary / Alternative Therapies in Nursing, 45-56.
  4. Lee, B., & Prior, S. (2013). Developing therapeutic listening. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 41(2), 91-104.

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