Immediacy | tips for therapists | How to use immediacy | experiential techniques


Quick summary: a quick set of tips for therapists on using immediacy in therapy.


Immediacy is when a therapist talks openly about something that is occurring in the present moment of the therapy session. The therapist talks about a dynamic, a non-verbal communication, a process, or a behavior etc that is occurring in session.


Immediacy is described as an experiential intervention in that the therapy process is focusing on an experience which is happening in the moment… the client can therefore learn from a real life experience.


Example of immediacy – a therapist might say, “I see that when we talk about Connecticut you clench your fists and look to the floor.”


Generally the cliché follow up questions that are seen in media portrayals of the profession are not necessary (though for certain individuals they absolutely are helpful).

  • This means that immediacy rarely needs to be followed with questions such as, “how does that make you feel” or “what are your thoughts on that?”


Different times that you might use Immediacy



Immediacy is very helpful as it gives a person insight into their physiological and/or emotional responses related to a subject.


  • example, a person might describe themselves as having a confusing relationship with their father and their body language might suggest that they are scared… such as if they were cowering and slouching down in their chair.


Often times immediacy is used to show discrepancies between what a client verbally relays and what is visually or audibly available.


  • Example, a person might say that every thing is really great and they are feeling completely stress free though they are speaking rapidly in a very loud voice.


Immediacy can be used in family and couples counseling to encourage a person to take note of what their family member is communicating to them non-verbally.


  • Example, if a husband is talking to his wife in a soft gentle tone and yet his word choice is making her fold her arms and turn her body towards the door protectively, this can be brought to the husband’s attention. “How is your wife receiving what you are saying right now… if her body language could talk what would she be saying?”


Immediacy can be used to point out a behavior which is potentially disruptive to a person’s recovery.


  • Example, a therapist could say, “I know that your goal is to find a place of forgiveness and acceptance surrounding your childhood and I was wondering if you noticed how the subject always gets changed anytime we talk about the past?”


Immediacy can be used to point out a dynamic between the therapist and the client.


  • Example, “I notice that every time you get sad you try and take care of me… it seems that you are trying to make sure that I am ok with your sadness… I want you to know that you are safe here, I admire that your are a compassionate person and you do not need to take care of me… I am very willing to help you in holding your sadness through this process.”


We often are very good at thinking about and rationally explaining our emotions though we never actually allowed ourselves to experience the very emotions that we are relaying.


Immediacy encourages the client to gain an emotional and physiological understanding of the information they are relaying. This repairs the disconnect between the mind and the body’s experience of an occurrence.

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.
William Hambleton Bishop
William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

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