Social Work Programs

July 31, 2009

How Can You Listen to People All Day

Filed under: social work burn out — Tags: , , — admin @ 4:43 am

therapistcouchI’m often asked by people the question, “How can you listen to people all day”? It can be frustrating when someone seems to not really want to change, but to really focus on blaming others. But I think that is the first impulse we have- to get validation for our own perceptions and see the other person as causing our situation. I find that gently questioning this can help someone to look themselves.

Someone will initially blame their husband, wife, boss or friend for a situation. One technique that is good is to use some ideas from Byron Katie in her inquiry approach where you help the person turn their assumptions around. For instance, someone might say, "He is never there for me." . In her approach, after asking a few questions, you get the person to turn around the statement. For instance, one turn around would be, "I'm never there for him." . She then will ask the person if that may be equally true. Another turn around could be, "I'm never there for myself". That can also be a clue for someone to see that they aren't really willing to sit with themselves and perhaps are using the other person's attention as a substitute.

When I listen to someone I try to also see how their situation may be a more exaggerated form of my own or something I would've fallen into myself if I didn't come from a loving home and been fortunate to have had good teachers over the years.

Another thing about listening to someone is to remember that they may have had some very negative influences or experiences and never learned the means to process the underlying emotions to get beyond them before. If I am in the session thinking about the movie I'll see later or making a grocery list in my head, how is that helping someone ? Someone drove to come over to talk, they are revealing something they may have never shared to another person. This is very humbling.


  1. My mother-in-law does social work counselling and I don’t know how she can listen to people complain all the time. She does group psychotherapy a bit and says that people listen to others in the group and give them advice too. I just don’t know how someone could hear people go over the same thing each week, but hey that’s me.

    Comment by Irene — August 1, 2009 @ 1:09 am

  2. I heard that Byron Katie recommends an addiction center now that uses these principles ot help people via conscious counseling to do inquiry. She listens to people so much, though she isn’t a typical therapist. She loves freedom and is beyond a lot of assumptions that even hip psychotherapists still cling to.

    Comment by Dan R — August 10, 2009 @ 3:35 am

  3. When my friend and her husband went for marital counselling she said they both were trying to convince the social worker that they were each right and it became a contest to win the approval of the psychotherapist. I am not sure that they tried to listen to each other and really change. They both blame all the time others for their own problems.

    Comment by Miriam — September 1, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

  4. Is a phd in social work more useful than getting a masters in social work? Can you tell if the online courses are accredited social work programs because I know they probably aren’t all licensable.

    Comment by Michael — September 8, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

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