Home Book Reviews Verbal and Non Verbal Communication in Psychotherapy

Verbal and Non Verbal Communication in Psychotherapy







Reviewed by Nancy Eichhorn, PhD

I read professional books with an eye for insight and an ear for style. The text must offer something new yet be grounded in foundational knowledge to allow an oscillation between reflection and absorption. As well, the writing must tickle my fancy—it cannot drudge onward with stodgy sentences burdened by $10.00 words and dripping with detail designed to show-off the author’s bookishess. It must be light, lively, sing a song that results in joyous learning.

Gill Westland’s 2015 release entitled, Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication in Psychotherapy, merits mention. Her voice felt personable, reachable, while professional, informative. I was fascinated by the data, experientials and practices, character descriptions, and clinical applications. There’s something for anyone involved in mental health care as Gill draws on current findings from: infant development studies; neuroscience; various schools and approaches; and mindfulness/Buddhist practices. As Michael Heller, PhD, author of Body Psychotherapy: History, Concepts & Methods notes: “Westland leaves aside traditional rivalries between schools and modalities to convincingly show that verbal and body techniques are necessarily complementary and interdependent systems.” Gill supports the communicative musicality of feeling matched and known verbally and non-verbally, as the experience is one—we cannot separate the body from words though words can be void of feeling and expression (rooted versus dead words, see Chapter 4). As Nick Totton is quoted, “Thought and language are qualities of the body itself” (pg.127).

“Central to helping clients make sense of their implicit communications is guiding them toward a relationship with their bodily experience” (pg. 126).
The book’s focus is to introduce clients and clinicians to the “how” of their communication’s presence, resonance, awareness, and the embodied qualities of our core system: loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. According to Gill, Wilhelm Reich paid attention to the ‘how’ of client’s words— “Words can lie. The mode of expression never lies” (pg. 14). She shares her thoughts and actions/reactions with clients from a reflective stance, walking readers through the experience within scenes as well as offering interpretations and reflections. Within the vignettes she shares her explorations (the process she experiences) and her vulnerabilities (the mismatches that occur)—she is real and true on the page.

Gill writes from a ‘bodymind perspective’ to an audience assumed to have no prior knowledge of the subject areas covered. Her writing style is meant to be evocative, to invite a subjective experience and embodied connection with the content (pg. 15). While reading the clinical vignettes, readers are invited to notice their own  non-verbal responses to the text as well as their own thoughts and opinions (pg. 16). Gill hopes the book will broaden clinicians’ repertoires across different modalities and offer additional ways of thinking about clinical work (pg. 19). A repeating refrain accompanies every experiential: “You might like to read through . . . to familiarize yourself then practice,” followed by questions to guide the reflection:

What am I sensing in my body?
What am I feeling?
What am I imaging?
What am I thinking?

The book is comprised of eleven chapters, which include the Introduction: Setting the Scene and Conclusions: Going on From Here. There is also a glossary, references and an index. The body of the book involves nine chapters: neurological foundations of non-verbal communication; infant development and communication; being with the Self and being with the client; verbal and non-verbal communication—how the two interact; breathing and relating; being with emotions; free association through the body; touch; and using creative media for expression.
To read the entire review follow this link: The Introduction