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The Importance of Validation

Validation is a process in which the listener communicates that a person’s thoughts and feelings on a matter are legitimate. Seeking validation in the name of healing is normal, and the validation of one’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences is important in a therapeutic sense. In recovery, validation helps a client overcome what is troubling them and take steps to fully process those feelings. But every person will need validation of some kind over the course of their life. 


Validation in Real-Time


When someone is injured in an accident, the anxiety and stress surrounding the event will typically lead a person to communicate where they are hurt, how bad it hurts, and ask for help. Some people may scream, cry, yell, swear, or grapple with a rescuer. The injured person will expect someone to understand their level of pain and treat them. 


In this scenario, real-time validation consists of a person swiftly treating their injuries and communicating that yes, they know it hurts, and yes, they will be alright, etc. When it comes to matters of physical health, validation is often swift, resulting in treatment as well as reassurance that the pain will lessen and the injury will heal. 


For trauma victims, victims of crimes, mental health patients, and those with invisible ailments, getting this same type of validation can be tricky. A licensed professional may not always know what is wrong or how to help. Those who offer support and trust may not know what a person is going through or how to help either. 


Validation in these cases can be difficult to obtain, leading to negative effects on a person’s mental health and healing. As additional studies are done on memory, the biology of mental health, mental health treatment, addiction, crime scene evidence, and other topics, more people can start to get the validation they deserve and find comfort in the acknowledgment that their thoughts and feelings are legitimate. 


How Validation Works


According to the International Association for the Study of Pain, there are multiple levels of validation. In a study regarding validation in pain management, the researchers came up with six levels of validation communication that can actively help someone’s physiological state.


  • Level 1: Listening and observing – This means the listener is actively listening to the speaker with eye contact and cues like head nodding or facial expressions. 
  • Level 2: Accurate reflection – This means restating what the speaker said (sometimes in slightly different words) without changing the meaning, which validates that the listener accurately heard the speaker. 
  • Level 3: Articulating the unverbalized – This means inferring thoughts or feelings that the listener knows the speaker may have meant. For example, if someone is having trouble expressing what they are feeling, a listener may add a term or qualifier to help it make sense. 
  • Level 4: Validating in terms of sufficient (but not necessarily valid) causes – This means validating what the speaker is saying based on their known past and history. 
  • Level 5: Validating as reasonable in the moment – This means validating the speaker’s thoughts and feelings based on their current situation and justifying what they are saying based on their current feelings. 
  • Level 6: Radical genuineness – This means treating the speaker as a valid and capable individual. This requires full attention on the listener’s behalf and being ready to talk about solutions and how to best help the speaker. Radial genuineness is the highest level of validation. 


If you are ever in a position where you can validate someone and help with their emotional state, these examples for each level of validation show how words can be used to validate their feelings.


Validation in Conflict


The levels of validation listed above are intended for pain validation, but they can also be used in terms of conflict. For those who are having conflict with family, friends, neighbors, children, or others, successful resolution may require validation. Although some conflicts will require boundaries, validation and allowing the speaker to feel heard is a good start to resolving conflict. 


For example, consider a teen and parent who are having conflict because the teen snuck out, and the parent decides to ground the teen. The parent feels justified in the grounding because the teen snuck out. Sneaking out is dangerous and the parent was worried for their safety. The teen believes they need to sneak out because the parent does not give them permission to leave the home easily. 


If the parent is the listener, they can use all six levels of validation in response to the teen’s feeling that they must sneak out. This would end at Level 6 of validation with the parent asking the teen what they can do together to solve the problem and establish mutual trust. 


For those who struggle with substance use and addiction, there are likely many times when they can look back and know they needed real-time validation but did not get it. Sometimes a person struggling with substance use or addiction needs to validate that their actions are frustrating or hurting someone else. Conflict resolution through validation is achievable and can help both the speaker and the listener’s emotional state. At RECO Intensive, we understand that validation of one’s thoughts and feelings is vital for treatment and for lasting RECOvery. Our professional staff and experienced alumni offer individual therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and more to help bolster your mental health. Group therapy and/or family therapy can help you resolve conflict and process feelings about your family and your relationships with others. We know you want to heal, and we are here to help you. Call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future.

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