What Is Active Listening? Who Emphasized The Importance Of Active Listening In The Process Of Psychotherapy?

Listening is an important skill everyone should have as it significantly impacts developing relationships. This is why active listening is important in psychotherapy, but what is active listening, and who emphasized the importance of active listening in the process of psychotherapy? Read this article to find out.

Have you ever been conversing with a friend or partner and heard them say, “Just listen to me,” in frustration? This is often a sign that you are not actively listening. Despite its apparent simplicity, active listening can be challenging to practice. Our brains are naturally wired to notice distractions, even when highly engrossed in a conversation. Additionally, we may find ourselves thinking about other things while attempting to listen.

In counseling, active listening is particularly crucial. It helps establish trust, enables the client to open up and share their thoughts and feelings, and provides valuable information for the counseling process. A good listener is essential in this context, as they can help the client feel heard and understood, even if they do not provide immediate solutions.

This article delves into the importance of active listening in psychotherapy, explores the concept’s roots, and provides tips to become better listeners. We’ll delve into the origins of active listening by going over who emphasized the importance of active listening in the process of psychotherapy in order to fully understand how counselors started adding active listening to counseling techniques.

What is active listening?

Active listening is a communication skill that requires going beyond simply hearing the words that someone else says. It means making an effort to understand the meaning and intention behind those words. When you engage in active listening, you actively participate in the communication process and practice various techniques to show your interest, understanding, and engagement.

These techniques include being fully present in the conversation, which means giving your full attention to the speaker and avoiding distractions. You also show interest by practicing good eye contact, which signals that you are paying attention and are interested in what the other person is saying. You should also be aware of nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language, which can convey additional meaning and emotions beyond the spoken words.

Active listening is all about asking open-ended questions that encourage the speaker to provide more detailed and expansive responses. Doing this demonstrates your interest in the topic and enables the speaker to share more of their thoughts and feelings.

You should also practice paraphrasing and reflect back on what has been said. This helps to clarify the message and ensures you understand what the other person is trying to convey. When you paraphrase, you repeat the speaker’s words in your own words to confirm your understanding. Reflection involves summarizing what has been said and expressing empathy and compassion.

Active listening requires listening to understand rather than just listening to respond. You need to withhold judgment and avoid advising unless it is specifically requested. This helps to establish a positive and trusting atmosphere and makes the other person feel heard and valued.

Good communication skills are essential for success in any setting, whether at work, home, or in social situations. Listening is one of the vital skills you can have because it impacts your job effectiveness and the quality of your relationships with others.

In short, there are certain techniques you can use in order to become a better listener; you just need to make it a common practice by paying close attention to the speaker. Not only are efficient listening techniques necessary for general conversations, but they are also actively adopted in counseling. Active listening is an essential component of psychotherapy. We’ll be discussing in detail how therapists use active listening for counseling.

Why is active listening important in communication?

When you are engaged in interpersonal communication, active listening is crucial because it keeps you involved with the person you are conversing with in a very positive and engaging manner. You generate gratification by posing as an efficient listener and can efficiently strengthen ties with the person you are speaking with.

Not only does active listening add value to your conversation skills, but it also makes the other person heard and valued. Active listening is a skill that serves as the basis of a successful conversation in any setting, whether at work, home, or any social situation.

We are told to listen and comprehend instructions or any information given to us since we are little. A good listener can prove to be a major asset in any organization; whether you are working for a software house or if you are a doctor, the better you are at grasping information relayed to you, the better you can perform. How good of a listener you are, greatly impacts the success of your job, relationships, and friendships. There are some definite reasons which serve as the basis of why we listen like

  • We listen to obtain information.
  • We listen to understand.
  • We listen for enjoyment.
  • We listen to learn.

You might be thinking that with all the listening we do all day, we might be professionals at it!  But most of us are not, and research suggests that we only remember between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear. This research is described in Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience, which incorporates several active theories related to “instructional design and the learning process.”

However, this means that whether you converse with your boss, coworkers, clients, or spouse for 10 minutes, they listen to less than half of what you say, which equals roughly 3–4 minutes of the entire conversation.

Now take this statistic and imply it to yourself. This actually means that you did not completely understand the lecture you got from your mum regarding taking the trash out, and you turned her 15-minute lecture into a seven-and-a-half one. This also means that in critical situations, when you need maximum information input in critical situations, you are not intaking it entirely because you aren’t practicing active listening but rather casually intaking the information.

This is why when we listen to a lecture and don’t jot down all the points that the lecturer states, we tend to miss out on important information. Once we get back to reading the books, we are oblivious to when the teacher talked about that specific point.

  • We can all benefit from extremely good communication skills by practicing active listening. We can ignore the many ambiguities we encounter while getting and passing on information. If we have all our information straight, we can become good negotiators and enhance our abilities to influence and convince people.
  • Active listening will not only make your life easier, but by adopting effective active listening techniques, you can avoid encountering conflicts and any sort of misunderstanding, which can be highly beneficial when working amongst different groups of people.

If you want to adopt effective communication skills, you’ll need to develop a high level of self-awareness to adopt a distinctive communication style with others. Not only will this help you stand out amongst your peers and friends, but it also will help you develop a reputation amongst them as a person who is empathetic and patient.

Active listening is a critical component of effective communication, as it allows individuals to fully understand and comprehend the message that the speaker is attempting to convey. This means that the listener must pay attention to the speaker with full concentration, avoiding distractions and remaining present in the conversation. By doing this, the listener is better able to comprehend the message and respond appropriately, rather than simply nodding along or responding with generic comments.

In order to enhance active listening skills, the listener should make sure that the speaker knows that they are engaged and actively listening to their words. This can be accomplished through verbal and nonverbal cues, such as nodding, eye contact, and attentive body language. Additionally, the listener should avoid getting bored or losing focus, as this can lead to miscommunication and a lack of understanding between both parties.

Active listening is especially important in situations where miscommunication can lead to negative consequences, such as in professional settings or personal relationships. That is one of the main reasons why the importance of active listening is emphasized in the process of psychotherapy.

What is the importance of active listening in counseling?

There are countless situations in which effective active listening can be highly beneficial. As we are aware that active listening is actively used in psychotherapy, but it is also actively used in other situations as well.

One common interference is that we enjoy being heard and receiving timely reactions from others. We would only want to interact with or attempt to communicate with someone willing to listen to our difficulties or provide an attentive ear. Practicing attentive, active listening can benefit you in many essential aspects of your life. Your relationships, job, and social contacts can all benefit significantly from effective active listening from your side.

Active listening in counseling

According to research, counseling requires the ability to listen actively. The therapeutic relationship is fostered through empathy and empathetic listening. It has been established that this interaction between therapist and patient is one of the most important and reliable indicators of that client’s success in healing through their illness.

Learning active listening as a counselor has other advantages, including the potential to boost self-efficacy. At The University of Massachusetts Boston, Levitt teaches in the Clinical Psychology program of the Psychology Department. A 2002 study on the effects of teaching active listening to counseling students discovered that this ability made the students feel more confident and less anxious as aspiring counselors.

Who emphasized the importance of active listening in the process of psychotherapy?

Carl Rogers and Richard Farson emphasized the importance of active listening in the process of psychotherapy. If we need to learn about what led to their revelations about the importance of active listening in the process of psychotherapy, we’ll need to take a peek into the history of active listening. Research on what made a good counselor in the early 1940s led to the development of active listening.

This investigation, which was mostly directed by Carl Rogers and his clinical psychology colleagues, sought to discover why some counselors were more effective than others at handling their clients’ personal issues.

They found that people were more effective listeners than talkers. Up until that point, it was thought that offering advice, providing information, asking probing questions, and reassuring inquiries were all necessary while assisting someone with their personal issues. Later, these strategies would be impediments to active listening.

The term “active listening” was first used in 1957 by Carl Rogers and Richard Farson, who described the technique as one that “requires that we go inside the speaker, that we grasp, from his point of view, just what it is he is transmitting to us.”

More than that, we must let the speaker know we understand what he is saying. According to Rogers and Farson, those who are listened to in this “new and special way” eventually develop greater emotional maturity and become less defensive because they can better listen to themselves and comprehend their thoughts and feelings.

In 1962, Thomas Gordon, a colleague of Rogers, introduced the Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) program, which encouraged active listening as a communication skill. In 1970, Gordon published a book on the P.E.T., where his theories gained considerable acceptance as a type of contemporary parenting philosophy.

Gordon later came up with a list of 12 barriers to communication that included many of the conventional methods that were originally considered to be essential for aiding others, such as counseling and support.

A brief introduction of the people involved in emphasizing the importance of active listening in the process of psychotherapy

Carl Rogers

Rogers was an American psychologist whose work gave rise to various humanistic ideas in psychology, including active listening. Rogers is frequently credited with bringing a human-centered approach to psychology.

Rogers was ranked as the sixth most eminent psychologist of the 20th century in an objective review that took into account factors, including the number of citations and awards won. In addition to receiving praise from academics, Rogers’ work on resolving international conflicts led to his 1987 nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Thomas Gordon

Gordon was a graduate student at Ohio State University when Carl Rogers’ work first captured his attention. They then worked together, with Gordon rising to prominence for his contributions to the Gordon Model and the P.E.T. program, where the active listening method was further developed.

Almost five million copies of his book on the P.E.T. have been sold, earning it international acclaim. Gordon, like Rogers, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to conflict settlement.

What were the points emphasized in active listening in the process of psychotherapy?

Certain points were found essential when practicing active listening in psychotherapy. As discussed earlier, psychologists Carl Rogers and Richard Farson in 1987 defined the concept of active listening in psychotherapy.

They emphasized that this skill is vital for effective communication and can facilitate positive change. Active listening can be applied in the context of a client/helper relationship or group setting. Rogers identified three key principles for effective counseling:

  • Empathy
  • Congruence
  • Unconditional Positive Regard


This involves the therapist being able to understand and share the feelings of the client. This creates a safe and supportive environment where the client can express themselves without fear of judgment or criticism.


Therapists must be genuine and transparent in their communication, with their words and actions reflecting their true thoughts and feelings. This helps to establish trust and authenticity in the relationship.

Unconditional positive regard

The therapist must maintain an attitude of respect and acceptance towards the client, regardless of their thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. This creates a non-judgmental environment that fosters growth and change.

Active listening requires focusing on the speaker, suspending judgment, and making an effort to truly understand their perspective. This skill involves using open-ended questions, reflecting feelings, and providing small rewards to encourage the speaker to continue sharing.

In contrast, empathetic listening focuses on understanding the other person’s emotional experience and validating their feelings without judgment. This approach requires vulnerability and open communication from both the speaker and the listener.

In psychotherapy, active listening can help therapists understand the content and depth of their client’s emotions, while empathetic listening can facilitate self-exploration and positive change. Overall, active listening is an important skill for effective communication and personal growth.

What are the ways active listening is used in the process of psychotherapy by consultants?

There are certain ways therapists or consultants use active listening in their sessions. One of the ways is using active listening techniques alongside empathetic listening. Active listening is a method of listening that requires attentive focus.

However, some psychologists also use empathetic listening that emphasizes understanding the speaker’s emotional experience. But here we are, focussing on being active listeners, which mainly reflects the expressed emotions and validates the speaker without judgment.

Active listening encourages the speaker to share more and fosters an open, honest communication environment by showing understanding and validating the speaker’s emotions. It is a valuable tool for facilitating self-exploration and can be game-changing when used in therapy or workplace communication.

Active listening requires vulnerability from both the speaker and the listener. Honest, open communication can leave the speaker open to challenge or ridicule. The listener must also be open to experiencing some of the speaker’s hurt and pain. Three main active listening aspects occur between a client and a psychotherapist.

  • Adopt an attitude of respect and acceptance.
  • Develop an understanding of their client’s internal frame of reference.
  • Provide small rewards and use open-ended questions.
  • Reflecting feelings.

Active listening is a psychotherapeutic technique used by therapists to fully understand the content of the message and the depth of the client’s emotions. It involves adopting an attitude of respect and acceptance, understanding the client’s internal frame of reference, providing small rewards, using open-ended questions, and reflecting on the client’s feelings.

To practice active listening, one must suspend any judgment of the client’s goodness or badness and recognize their capacity to fail based on the life skills they possess or are lacking. The listener must also allow the client to develop and grow at their own pace without trying to control or judge them. By adopting the client’s perspective and understanding their internal frame of reference, the listener can reflect on the client’s emotional flow and communicate it back effectively.

An accepting approach means not passing judgment on the different patients and treating them as distinct human beings with the right to their own thoughts and feelings. By stepping outside of their own frame of reference and learning to put themselves in the client’s shoes, the counselor must realize and comprehend the separation between “me” and “you.”

Brief verbal and nonverbal signs of interest are known as “small rewards” and are used to entice clients to keep talking. Compared to closed inquiries, which can come out as negative and sometimes controlling and prevent clients from accessing their internal frame of reference, open-ended questions are an effective and helpful method to encourage active listening.

In conclusion, active listening is an important effective communication method. Active listening is a psychotherapeutic technique that involves respecting clients, understanding their internal frame of reference, providing small rewards, using open-ended questions, and reflecting on their feelings. This method requires a non-judgmental attitude, a willingness to be vulnerable, and an ability to communicate back effectively.

What are some effective active listening techniques that can be applied in the process of psychotherapy?

Certain techniques that differ from everyday listening can be used by therapists to improve active listening skills in psychotherapy. Effective active listening is beneficial for becoming a good communicator for a counselor who is empathetic and regarded as someone who people can come to when they want to be heard or when they want their feelings to be acknowledged.

One of the first things to consider is the listener’s body language, as it plays a vital role in active listening. Maintaining eye contact and displaying appropriate facial expressions convey empathy and attention, reflecting genuine attentiveness. However, it is essential to refrain from forcing or faking these indicators as they can give a wrong impression.

It is also helpful to create an environment that is free of distractions to enable active listening. If you are in a public place or have an office setup, it is recommended to put away any distractions and move to a quieter location to make it easier to focus. Another important skill involves allowing the speaker to have space to speak without interruptions or rapid-fire questions.

Active listening techniques encourage the speaker to continue speaking and to express themselves fully. In contrast to non-active listening situations where it is quick back and forth, many rapid questions or people may talk over one another.

The skill of reflecting is necessary to reflect on what the speaker is conveying. It involves repeating what you heard the speaker say, but not necessarily verbatim. Instead, you capture the essence of what they said and reflect it to them, including the conveyed feelings.

Reflecting is done without expressing judgment and with the goal of understanding. To ensure that you have captured the message correctly, asking if you have it right before asking the speaker to continue may be useful.

Active listening is called “active” because it requires taking some type of action when listening to others. This involves the use of certain strategies or techniques. Here are some techniques that can help improve active listening skills when working with patients in psychotherapy.

  • Be fully present
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues
  • Keep good eye contact
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Reflect on what you hear
  • Be patient
  • Withhold judgment
  • Face the speaker
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Don’t impose your opinions or solutions
  • Stay focused
  • Try to feel what the speaker is feeling.
  • Give the speaker regular feedback

1. Be fully present

One important active listening technique is to be fully present in the conversation. This means you need to concentrate on the speaker’s words and listen with all your senses, including sight and sound. You should give your full attention to the speaker and avoid distractions, daydreaming, and internal dialogues.

To use this technique effectively, you should put away any devices that might cause distractions, such as your cell phone. You should also ignore any external distractions and focus on the speaker. It is important to be mindful of your internal thoughts and prevent them from interfering with your listening ability. Doing this lets you let everything else slip away and truly engage in the conversation with the speaker.

2. Pay attention to non-verbal cues

Active listening involves paying attention to non-verbal cues as well as verbal communication. Non-verbal cues include body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and other signals that are not expressed in words. According to research, non-verbal communication accounts for a significant portion of overall communication, often up to 65%.

Active listening therapists can gain insight into the speaker’s emotions, intentions, and underlying messages by paying attention to these cues. For example, a fast-talking person may feel nervous or excited, while a slow-talking person may feel uncertain or hesitant.

Active listening also involves being aware of your own non-verbal behaviors. Use open and welcoming body language to demonstrate that you are fully engaged in the conversation. This includes uncrossed arms, maintaining eye contact, nodding at appropriate moments, and leaning in towards the client. By displaying these non-verbal cues, you can show the speaker that you are actively listening and interested in what they have to say.

3. Keep good eye contact

The next active listening technique is keeping eye contact with your client. Making eye contact is essential to show that you are actively present and listening to the person talking. It also indicates that you are not distracted by anything else around you.

However, you should not use so much eye contact that it feels uncomfortable for the speaker. To avoid this, use the 50/70 rule, which means maintaining eye contact for 50% to 70% of the time spent listening, holding the contact for four to five seconds before briefly looking away. This will show the speaker that you are fully engaged in the conversation while respecting their personal space.

4. Ask open-ended questions

Asking open-ended questions is an effective active listening technique employed in psychotherapy because it helps to keep the conversation going and allows for a deeper understanding of the other person’s perspective.

Closed-ended questions that only require a “yes” or “no” response can create dead ends in the conversation and limit the amount of information that can be gathered. On the other hand, open-ended questions encourage the speaker to elaborate and provide more detail, which can help reveal their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

Examples of open-ended questions include asking the speaker to provide more information about a topic, their thoughts or opinions, or their ideas on how to move forward. Mental health therapists often use open-ended questions to encourage their clients to explore their emotions and experiences more deeply.

5. Reflect on what you hear

Active listening involves the practice of reflecting on what you have heard from the speaker. You can ensure you accurately understand their thoughts and emotions by paraphrasing, summarizing, or repeating the speaker’s words.

This helps the speaker feel heard and validated while reducing any misunderstandings that might arise. It’s important to give the speaker a chance to clarify or correct any misunderstandings by asking for more information or clarification, but you should not get bogged down in minor details and lose sight of the bigger picture.

6. Be patient

Patience is a vital part of active listening, and it helps create a safe and comfortable environment where the other person can share their thoughts and feelings. Active listening is not just about hearing the words but also about acknowledging and accepting the other person’s point of view without judgment or criticism. By being patient, you can give the other person the space and time they need to express themselves fully, leading to a more meaningful and productive conversation.

7. Withhold judgment

Additionally, it’s important to recognize that being non-judgmental doesn’t mean agreeing with everything the other person says. It simply means that you’re willing to listen and understand their perspective without immediately dismissing it or imposing your own beliefs onto them. This can help create a more open and productive conversation where both parties feel heard and respected.

8. Face the speaker

Open and non-threatening body language and good eye contact are key components of active listening. Breaking eye contact every five seconds or so can help you avoid intimidating the other person while still showing that you’re paying attention.

Additionally, keeping an open posture and leaning slightly forward or sideways while sitting can demonstrate your interest and engagement in the conversation. A slight tilt of your head or resting your head on your hand can also convey active listening.

9. Don’t interrupt

If you find yourself getting distracted or wanting to interrupt, try to refocus on what the other person is saying. You can do this by mentally repeating what they are saying or by taking notes to keep yourself on track. If you do need to interrupt, do so politely and explain why you need to do so.

For example, you might say, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying. Did you mean…?” or “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have to leave in five minutes, so could you please summarize your main points for me?”

Remember, active listening requires your full attention, so try to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Put your phone on silent or in another room, close your door, or find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. By giving the other person your full attention, you show that you value what they say and that you’re willing to invest time and energy into the conversation.

10. Don’t impose your opinions or solutions

It’s important to recognize that sometimes people just need someone to listen and support them rather than someone who will give them unsolicited advice. It’s essential to show empathy and understanding and ask if the person wants your advice.

It’s also important to recognize that everyone’s situation is different, and what worked for you might not work for someone else. So listening without judgment and offering support can be very valuable for someone going through a tough time.

11. Stay focused

Being present and fully engaged in the conversation is essential for active listening. It’s important to eliminate distractions like phones or other devices and focus on the person speaking. Active listening is not just about hearing the words but also paying attention to the tone of voice, body language, and emotions conveyed by the speaker. This allows you to fully understand their message and respond appropriately.

12. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling.

Empathy is crucial to active listening, as it helps you understand the other person’s perspective and feelings. Listening with empathy creates a safe and comfortable space for the other person to express themselves. You show that you care about what they are saying and that you value their feelings and experiences.

However, it’s essential to remember that empathy doesn’t mean you must agree with the other person’s point of view or feelings. It just means you’re willing to put yourself in their shoes and see the situation from their perspective. Doing so allows you to communicate more effectively, build stronger relationships, and foster deeper connections with those around you.

13. Give the speaker regular feedback.

Reflecting on the speaker’s feelings is an important aspect of active listening. It shows that you are listening to the content of what they are saying and understanding how they are feeling. Paraphrasing the message’s content can also help clarify any confusion or misunderstanding.

Restating instructions and messages are especially important in therapy situations to ensure you fully understand what is expected. This can prevent mistakes and help to ensure that the therapy is completed correctly and efficiently. Active listening requires a combination of focus, attention, and empathy. By practicing these skills, you can become a better listener and a trusted counselor and build stronger relationships with people that come to you for psychotherapy.

What are some ways to improve active listening in the process of psychotherapy?

There are some ways you can improve your active listening as a therapist. Active listening is crucial in effective communication, but many people struggle to be good at it even if they know all the techniques. To improve your skills or encourage others to do so, you can use a few key strategies.

We have all experienced conversations where the person we talk to seems distracted or uninterested. This can be frustrating and can discourage us from opening up and sharing our thoughts and feelings. To avoid causing this feeling in your clients and to improve your active listening skills, there are a few ways to become a better active listener.

  • One way to do this is to encourage your own curiosity. When you are genuinely curious about something, it is easier to ask questions and seek to understand. This is a key aspect of active listening that helps to facilitate effective communication.
  • Another strategy is to try to find a similar ground between you and your client. This is particularly helpful when you want to create a connection with your client while they might be feeling disconnected or shy. When both parties are passionate about the topic, staying engaged, opening up, and being fully present in the conversation becomes easier.
  • Like any skill, active listening requires practice. It is important to be patient with yourself as you go through the learning process and to continue practicing these skills. When others see you demonstrating active listening, it may make them feel that you are quite an empathetic psychotherapist, and you might even inspire them to become better listeners as well.
  • It is also important to understand when it is best to exit a conversation. If the other person seems uninterested in the conversation, it may be respectful to end it instead of allowing it to continue and making both parties feel unheard and unimportant. Knowing when to end a conversation can help to prevent frustration and maintain healthy communication between you and your client.


Active listening is an extremely effective technique counselors use to decrease the intensity of emotions when conducting a psychotherapy session. Labeling an emotion quickly dissipates the intense feeling of overwhelming the patient carries with emotion. Once the emotional high is reduced, it is easier for the therapist and the patient to reach a reasonable common ground.

Not only is active listening an effective technique in psychotherapy, but it is also quite effective in our normal day-to-day conversations when we want to present ourselves as more empathetic and sympathetic to people that want to discuss their difficult situations. Active listening is also a very potent tool if you are an employee or even a student. Active listening can be very effective in understanding what is being communicated to us and then acting accordingly to the instructions relayed