Non-possessive Warmth

5 Commentsby   |  09.05.09  |  Uncategorized

As discussed in class this previous week, non-possessive warmth is one of the three key characteristics a therapist needs to exhibit for effective therapy to take place.  To better understand what non-possessive warmth is, I believe it is necessary to look at what it is not.  According to Truax and Carkhuff’s stages of non-possessive warmth, the first stage is when the therapist is letting it be known what he or she thinks about what the client is telling them.  Their opinion of the client and their behavior is clear, and oftentimes the therapist tries to tell the client what is best for them to do.  As I was reading about non-possessive warmth at this stage, an image of therapist as a parent (albeit an “unhealthy” one) came into my mind.  The therapist has made the clients actions personal, and seems to be taking a level of responsibility for them, much like a parent may take responsibility for the actions of his or her child. 

When non-possessive warmth is displayed accurately, there is a sense of separation from the client and the client’s behavior.  The therapist acts in such a way as to say that the client is accepted regardless of their behavior.  Lartey explains non-possessive warmth in counseling to be “a welcoming and loving attitude toward a client in which the client is affirmed and accepted as a person” (96).  According to Robb , this is very similar to Standal’s concept of unconditional positive regard in client-centered therapy.  At stage four in Truax and Carkhuff’s model, the therapist is said to communicate clearly their concern for the client, while also “showing a nonevaluative and unconditional warmth in almost all areas of his functioning” (65).  At this stage, Truax and Carkhuff say that the therapist displays that they are responsible not for the client, but to the client.  In the video presented, the therapist shows an attitude and warmth towards the client, despite the client’s initial discomfort with talking to the therapist.   Non-Possessive Warmth

Although it is important for any therapist to display this non-possessive warmth, I feel that it is especially important for a Christian therapist to display.  We are serving as God’s hands and feet to a world of hurting people.  It should be our prayer and concern going into a therapy session to see our clients the way that God sees them and with a love that is unconditional.  I believe that Brandon Heath’s song “Give Me Your Eyes” portrays what the cry of our hearts should be to correctly display non-possessive warmth in the therapy room. 

After having read this blog and your readings, what are some issues that may arise in a client’s behavior (lifestyle, etc.) that will cause you to struggle with displaying non-possessive warmth?  How can you show non-possessive warmth both verbally and non-verbally? 

Lartey, E. Y. (2003).  In living color: An intercultural approach to pastoral care and counseling.  New York: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Robb, M. (2004).  Communications, relationships and care: A reader.  New York: Taylor & Francis. 

Truax, C. B., & Carkhuff, R. R. (1967).  Toward effective counseling and psychotherapy: Training and practice.  Chicago: Aldine. (23-79).


  1. Jaime Goff
    10:00 pm, 09.07.09

    I really liked the song as an example of nonpossessive warmth. Like Dr. Halstead mentioned in the staffing last week, we like to say we’re training our students to be incarnational companions. We want you all to leave here being better at being the eyes, arms, hands, and feet of Jesus. When we talk about these essential therapist characteristics, I can’t help but think about Jesus as the perfect example of all three. No one else has ever been able to get to the heart of the matter they way he could. When we think about clients who have different values/beliefs than us and how to be accepting regardless of their actions, I think we only have to think of Jesus. I think when we offer warmth without restriction, we are opening clients up to future possibilities. This reminds me of 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 in which Paul explains that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter who does the “saving” because each interaction is an opportunity to influence someone positively. As therapists, we may be planting the seeds of acceptance, showing people that regardless of what has happened in their lives, they are worthy of receiving love. Another quote comes to mind from St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.”

  2. Jacqueline Roberts
    8:51 pm, 09.13.09

    After reading about non-possesive warmth, I believe there would be some situations when it would be difficult to show non-possessive warmth. Personally, working with a client who had been involved in sexual or domesitc abuse, especially with a child, would be the most diffucult to show non-possessive warmth to. To over come this problem, I would try and focus on client’s future and not their past. I may also try to learn more about the client to try and determine what led them to commit such crimes, and further increase my understanding. I believe increase understanding would allow me to display non-possesive warmth more accuretly in a difficult situation.
    To physically display non-possessive warmth, I would lean forward, nod my head, maintain eye contact, and use hand gestures. To verbally display non-possessive warmth I would use language that communicated and understanding and compassion.

  3. Amie Campbell
    7:46 pm, 11.05.09

    During an observation earlier this week, Elizabeth and I were talking to Jordan about how he handles abuse cases. Like Jacqueline, I find that abuse cases are cases where I might have a particularly difficult time showing warmth. Jordan was saying that what he does is focus on the fact that the client may have done some bad things, but they are hurting individuals just like anyone else. He said that he focuses on trying to find anything positive that the client has done so that he can have something to praise the client for. For example, at least the client is willing to come to therapy and try to work on their problems.

  4. Ashley Roan
    11:47 am, 12.07.09

    i have realized through our dyads that one things i i struggle with showing non possessive warmth is with relationships is cheating and abandonment. I knwo that in my experience i am ot tolerant of these things because i have experienced them through family members and friends and my own relationships. I have a bias to cut off and seperate from these hurtful experiences. I have seen myself encourage clients to protect them selves from their cheating or abandoning partner by disconnecting. I dont want to push my beliefs or my way of handeling things on my clients but i am not convinced that other methods work. I am not sure i will ever personally ovecome this bias but i hope i can professionally overcome it.

  5. Elizabeth Brown
    4:37 pm, 12.08.09

    I have realized that in my relationships I am pretty possessively warm. :-) I get stuck on thinking I know what they need to do to feel better/succeed/whatever. I have especially noticed this in how I relate to my sister. Throughout this semester and with her living with us, I’ve really tried to change the way I talk with her because she does come to me for advice or counsel. I’ve focused more on affirming her abilities to make decisions and encouraging her to look ask herself what she should do. I suppose with that big sister tendency, I need to watch out for that with clients who willingly want someone to tell them what to do, who want someone to take over so they don’t have to. I’ve definitely learned a lot about this through the semester and am glad I can see my personal relationships changing in this way.

Add a Comment