Listening is clearly central to the practice of both counselling and psychotherapy. Given this, it is quite extraordinary how little thought has been given to the nature of therapeutic listening and to the cultivation and evaluation of the therapist as listener. Instead, listening is a subject marginalised in both the theoretical literature on psychotherapy and in the practical training of counsellors and psychotherapists - not to mention physicians and psychiatrists. In this collection of essays and articles by Peter Wilberg, the thinking of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger provides the platform for an exploration of the deeper nature of listening as a mode of active inner communication with others - one of profound significance not only in the 'helping professions' but in inter-personal life. In professional training contexts, the willingness of the trainee therapist to listen and hear is taken for granted, and the "art" or "skill" of listening reduced to learning different ways of responding to what a client says. From the client's point of view however, healing begins with being fully heard - not with the therapist's responses.
Indeed what a client says or does not say and the way in which they say it or "unsay" it is already a response - a response to the way in which the therapist is or is not listening. Listening is no mere natural ability or technical communication skill. It is a basic dimension of what Heidegger called our human Da-sein or (t)here-being. What we are capable of hearing is determined by our capacity to be fully present and here with ourselves, and at the same time fully there and "with" the other. Listening is not just a basic mode of Da-sein. It is also midwife to the word. What Wilberg calls Maieutic Listening (from the Greek maieuesthai - "to act as a midwife") is not a new form of psychotherapy, but the embodied essence of therapeutic listening. "The Therapist as Listener" not only critically questions many of the professional modes of listening currently practiced in counselling and psychotherapy, but introduces the principle and practice of Maieutic Listening. Maieutic listening is not the application of a set of skills or techniques but the disciplined cultivation of a basic inner bearing - that of the listener as midwife.
The therapist as midwife is someone able to fully be and bear with others in pregnant silence. Their role is not merely to help others give birth to new insights about themselves but to help them give birth to a new self - their own listening self. For what use is psychotherapy, if through it, the client does not find a way to discover and embody a new inner bearing, a new way of being with and listening to themselves and others?