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Reading non-verbals and checking with the client

Video Type: Documentary

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Maria is a 24-year old, second-generation Argentinian woman living in Canada who came out as a lesbian last year. Her parents are devout Catholics and opposed to homosexuality, and she feels they have not fully absorbed her sexual orientation—they see it as a “phase.” She feels they are very gradually adjusting, but is concerned that announcing the plan to move in with her partner Lisa would disturb the current peaceful equilibrium in their relationship. Maria is getting pressure from Lisa, but is concerned that moving in would be extremely upsetting to her parents, and she is stuck as to how to go forward. As Maria recounts an incident that was upsetting to her, Alex pays attention to her non-verbals. Maria is not explicitly naming all of her emotional response to the incident but does appear to convey additional information nonverbally. See if you can spot any key non-verbals before Alex mentions them. Alex offers his observation of the non-verbals to Maria as a way of inviting her to expand her account of her experience. How does he do this without “telling” Maria what she is feeling, but rather giving her an opportunity to name it in her own words? What aspects of this practice might you have done similarly/differently? We don't always “name” aspects of our experience although we may convey them through non-verbals. Here, Maria's hands are “doing the talking”. But non-verbals are subject to multiple interpretations, just as spoken statements. And so Alex does not assume he knows what this experience was like for Maria, while at the same time inviting her to say more about her non-verbals. At the end of this short exchange, Alex has confirmed his impressions and has a richer sense of Marie's experience.

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