Getting started - Language

getting started pictureThink about and ask the person you are working with what words and language they use to describe themselves. In the context of this work they could simply be a person/storyteller and you could be a listener or an enabler.

Recovery orientated language

Recovery language recognises people's strengths and aims to empower people. Remember to put the person first and to avoid language that discriminates, limits people or makes assumptions.

Language can be a real barrier for some people and it is important to be able to create an environment that enables others to find their own way of describing themselves and to help, support and encourage them to use the language that they feel comfortable with.

Positive reframing

If someone is using language that is quite negative, it can be helpful to draw out and reflect back to them something positive.

Example: “That year was so awful, I needed so much support from my family and help from my CPN. My friends had to come to help out too.”

“What an incredible support network you have. How fortunate to have so many people around you that care about you and are able to support you when you needed them”

Appreciative feedback

Use "I" statements:

“I really enjoy your humour. I think you have a real skill for making people smile.”

“ I think you have a real flair with words.”

Celebrating strengths and achievements

The language you use can help the person to see themselves and their achievements positively, and help them to recognise and celebrate their strengths and achievements.

“I am quite obsessive when doing puzzles. It helps distract me, but I spend hours doing them.”

“I think that shows enormous skill and perseverance, and you seem to have found a good way to switch off from other things. “


Think carefully about questions you might ask. Avoid asking too many leading questions. Let the person explore and share what feels okay for them until you get to know them better. Too many questions can feel intrusive. It is easy to share more than you intend and afterwards have regrets, or find it stirred up difficult feelings.  It might feel right for you, the helper, to be asking lots of questions, and you might genuinely be keen to find out what the other person's been through, but remember that questions have a place and you could be taking them down a path that's not right for them at that time.

Active Listening skills

Be attentive to non-verbal communication.

Think about using active listening skils, such as paraphrasing, reflecting, positive re-framing and summarising.

Here are some links for more information about active listening.

Wiki entry and more links 

The three main levels of active listening


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