Person-centred Basics: Janet Tolan on Subtle Contact

The fifth in our occasional series of person-centred fundamentals.

“There is a further way in which we make contact with each other. There seems to be no term for it in Western psychological thought, and so I will call it “subtle contact”. We may put on a good show of being in emotional contact, but if this is not congruent with the subtle contact we make, the person we are with is very likely to sense something that feels “wrong”. It is congruence between what is understood by our five senses and what is understood by our “sixth sense” that lets us know whether a communication, or a relationship, is authentic or not. We may look, sound and even feel warm or empathic to some degree, but if we’re not available for contact at a subtle level, our client is unlikely to experience us as such. 

When we do make subtle contact, we become fully present. We create the potential for a depth of contact described by Rogers as seeming

“… Like my inner spirit has reached out and touched the inner spirit of the other. Our relationship transcends itself and becomes a part of something larger. Profound growth and healing and energy at present.”

Others have preferred to describe this experience of profound contact in more secular terms. You may hear it described as “working at relational depth” (Mearns 1996), or simply as intimacy.

We have no influence over whether our client will choose to meet us at such a depth. However, we can choose to make ourselves available to receive them if they do.”

Skills in Person-Centred Counselling & Psychotherapy – Janet Tolan

For us, this captures something of the very heart of person-centred therapy. It is the ability to offer relationship at this level that we are primarily seeking when we take on therapists. That requires a therapist who has this level of contact with self – quite rare, in our experience.

Here’s the book link:-

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

This entry was posted in actualizing tendency, Carl Rogers, communication, congruence, core conditions, empathy, encounter, growth, Janet Tolan, love, non-directive counselling, Palace Gate Counselling Service, person centred, person centred theory, presence, relationship, therapeutic growth, therapeutic relationship, transformation, trust, working with clients and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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