Validation Therapy Technique

A couple days after I took the class, I was outside of the gate of our
reminiscence community. We have a gate on the outside and my office is on the
other side across the across kind of a
little driveway from the gate. And sometimes some of the residents
who want to go somewhere come to the gate and they’re looking for a way to get
out and it’s something that always tugs at my heartstrings
because I feel like you know. So I go over there and from
there was a woman named Roberta who is actually banging on the gate and I
came out of my office and went across and opened the gate and stepped inside and I said you know I said hi, and she immediately
said “I need to get my father’s store.” with some urgency you know “I need to get to my father’s store. In the time before I had taken
the course, I was in a similar dilemma with a
situation like that as a lot of people experience, of trying to decide okay, do you tell them the truth? You know, which is one of the older
techniques, you know your father’s store doesn’t
exist anymore or something. You know, that’s cruel. Do you lie? Which seems to be the other extreme on that continuum. and say oh, we’ll go to your, his store’s closed. One of the strong ideas that was expressed in the class is that even if a
resident doesn’t cognitively know that you’re not
telling the truth, on some level, on an emotional level, they know and it’ll make a difference
and it’ll erode the trust that’s possible in the relationship. They might not in that moment
cognitively know that the father’s store doesn’t exist but on some level they know, and if you
pretend like it does still exist — if you basically
lie to them to to get out of the situation, then that’s gonna have an impact on the
relationship and it’s also not treating them with dignity. So I’m when I did instead was kind of
tried out the validation therapy technique, which was to engage the resident in the subject and in the emotional content
of what they were bringing to the interaction. So the idea behind that is that Roberta is talking about her father’s
store because there is a need there you know, because she needs to talk about that. So the response that I gave was, well
tell me about your father’s store and she said oh, you know my father used to have a general store and when I when I was a little girl I
would I’d go and help him in the store and I said “What was your father like?”
“Oh, he was wonderful.” That takes it even a step closer to she’s needing to talk about her father and whatever that means to her and by engaging her on that, it gives her a chance to meet her needs and meet it in the context of a relationship. So she
starts talking about how wonderful her father was and i say you know, where did
you live? In Ohio or something like that, Iowa. and then back to her father you know,
she goes back to, well I have to get to his store. Then I thought well maybe she’s got some pictures of her
father in her room so I said you know you’ve got a room right over
here and there are probably some pictures
of your father. Would you be able to show them to
me? I start kind of walking with her and then this is the moment of
connection. She turns to me and she says something
like thank you so much for spending time with
me and in that moment I feel like okay we’ve made a connection and the need that she was
expressing is being met by me being there with her and by her being able to talk about her father
and remember her father with someone. So, you know, it was just a wonderful
experience that, for me, validated the things that I learned and
was so encouraging in terms of wanting to experiment more with the principles of validation therapy.


  1. And now, six years later I'm becoming a Certified Validation Teacher. Thanks to Rita Altman and Naomi Feil for bringing this amazing theory and practice to me, enriching my life, career, and ability to assist and support others.

  2. I've been practicing this without knowing this was an official technique! I love the opportunity to learn more of this technique and to teach it to my staff. Thank you for sharing your point of view.

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