21 Aug 2013 |  for trainees | by Bill, writer at UK & Ireland Counsellor Directory

Immediacy means feeding back to another person how you are experiencing them, your perceptions and feelings, in the moment.

Immediacy involves using the immediate situation to invite the other person to look at what is going on between you in the relationship. Since it involves being open about our immediate reactions and feelings, it is very closely connected to the core condition of congruence.

Being immediate, being able to respond in the moment, is an essential part of the skills needed by therapists, and is valuable in helping to identify feelings, both in ourselves and in others. It focuses on using the here and now and on the therapeutic relationship to explore what the client may be communicating about his or her world.

Therapists can use immediate responses to disclose how they feel about clients or their relationships with their clients, or to share a hunch or sense of what the other person may be feeling. So immediacy involves a certain amount of risk for the therapist – the risk of being wrong, the risk of saying something in the moment which is unhelpful or damaging to the relationship, and the risk of self-disclosure, of exposing vulnerabilities by saying what he or she is feeling.

Immediacy is often related to challenging – the bringing into focus our perceptions of discrepancies or contradictions in the other person’s feelings, thinking or behaviour that they are tending to overlook or ignore. This should only be done for the benefit of the other person and for developing the relationship. It is not a way of complaining or letting off steam.

As with challenging, when we are being immediate about perceptions or feelings about the client or the relationship that they are likely to feel positive about, being immediate tends to carry less risk. However, where there is a potential for our comments or feedback to be experienced as painful or hurtful, it is important as therapists that we have the self-awareness to be able to respond with sensitivity and an understanding of how our behaviour is experienced by others. This is also closely related to the core condition of empathic understanding.

A key consideration in using immediacy in a challenging way is the strength of the working alliance – the commitment between client and helper to jointly work on the client’s issues or problems. This will help determine how tentative or direct we can be in usefully feeding back our immediate reactions and feelings to the client. A helping relationship in which a strong sense of trust and respect has developed is likely to provide more scope for the use of immediacy than one where the working alliance is still weak.

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