"Never forget the power of silence; silence can be its own therapy" Audrey Holland


For an aphasia therapist, there is perhaps nothing as disconcerting as silence.  

It can seem like failure:  failure on the part of the client, who cannot find the words he seeks, floundering in an ocean of deepening waves.  And failure on the part of the therapist, for whom silence is the moment of truth, evidence of her inability to help.

I remember as a beginning therapist, that I could fill those silences so quickly, rushing in with a cascade of words to cover the dry language riverbanks my client had revealed. Establishing myself as an enemy of silence seemed like an imperative.   And I took away a tool that the person with aphasia could use, and from which I could center myself, and learn.

Audrey Holland is so very right.  In silence, there is mutual acceptance of the relationship. And there is time and space for the person with aphasia to find his voice, free of one’s own verbal juggernaut.

The very first time I observed someone with aphasia, I was struck by the silence.  I saw and felt it as painful.  So used to the rapid exchanges in conversation, words tripping over one another in a rush, that I could not bear the moments when, lost in his own verbal whirlwind, the client slowly cleared the fog, and travelled a sort of internal journey on his way to bringing the thought to fruition. How many times, I wonder, did I interfere with his efforts, by my constant barrage of language?

True listening involves silence.

Like the drip of water from a faucet, silence makes us listen for what is coming next.

It is very, very hard work.



About Shirley Morganstein

I am a life participation therapist for people with aphasia, exploring the relational and reflective process.
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2 Responses to "Never forget the power of silence; silence can be its own therapy" Audrey Holland

  1. What a lovely post.I remember, a few years ago, sitting with a very good friend and fellow stroke survivor who had difficulty speaking…and suddenly realizing that we’d become so comfortable with each other that I didn’t feel that I needed to fill the silence. There was something very nice about being able to comfortably sit in silence with someone. I’ve never thought about its therapeutic applications, but I’d imagine that it could be very powerful.


  2. michelebor says:

    This is such an excellent. I needed to be reminded of the power of silence as a therapist. I needed this reinforcement and validation. Thank you for sharing these great conclusions.


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