Matthew Cuddeback, LCSW

In therapy we often talk about holding space. This can refer to the art of allowing a feeling to just be, without judgement. This can also refer to the space we literally and metaphorically take up in the world and in our own specific lives. Regardless of the specific reason for discussing space in therapy, it is important to understand why it is so important to your mental health.

The reason we spend so much time focusing on space is because it is ultimately one of the most precious things we have. For example, if you have experienced trauma, that experience has had an effect on you, it has become something present and almost tangible. We should respect that this is an object, and that it shouldn’t be something to ignore or try to hide, but instead given it’s appropriate place. When you are in a therapy session and you say something out loud that you may have until then denied, ignored, or just not verbalized. That feeling has been given a name and allowed a life of its own and it can be better managed and more tangible. Feelings when they are more tangible, are less scary and easier to get our hands on and deal with.

We also talk about how therapists will hold space for you, you can say a thing, something difficult for you and we will take it and hold it for you until we find the appropriate place for it. Knowing you can take something that has been weighing on your mind and carried alone and give it to someone who knows what to do with it. That they will help by keeping it in it’s appropriate space and work with you to find out where to put it, what to do with it can be very freeing.

Another area I often work with clients around, in regards to space, is the idea that you may be taking up space in a group. What I mean here is the idea that in any group you may associate with, you have a space there. Maybe you are the person in the group that has very few needs and don’t rock the boat, in this case the space you take up is small. Maybe in this group you have very specific requests or needs and it can feel like you’re taking up a lot of space, for example, if you have food allergies you may feel like you’re taking up a lot of space in the group, people need to accommodate, adjust, change plans, and now you feel like the space you are taking up is cumbersome. This is especially true for women, people of color, non-binary folks, and those with disabilities.

Hopefully you can see where this is going, everything takes up space whether it is literal such as needing to be alone or needing people to respect that they are in your space. It can also be more metaphorical or mental. Such as allowing yourself to externalize emotions that are taking up space in your mind, or the space you perceive to be taking up in the world around you. The most important factor for all of this is that you are allowed your space and deserve your space , however much is needed. The thing we often lose sight of is that, this kind of space is unlimited. There is no such thing as space pie, there are more than enough slices for everyone. Take up the space you need, fight for it, demand it, and you will likely see the important people in your life are more than willing to welcome it.