hances are, you have heard the term “holding space” being used, but you might not know what it truly entails. Used extensively by psychiatrists, caregivers, and healers, holding space is essentially how we can make the most comfort out of our space with others by being a neutral and empathetic friend. It's a practice that can be quite difficult as we are programmed to grab space instead of holding it. To learn the art of holding space, our handy guide will provide you answers on what holding space is and its benefits, as well as how you can practice and improve your holding space skills. 

Our guide includes:

  • What does holding space mean?
  • What does holding space do?
  • How to practice holding space
  • How to hold space for yourself

What does “holding space” mean?

Holding space can take place in many different settings, including with friends, family members, support groups, or therapy sessions. When you are “holding space,” you are acting without any judgment when it comes to listening to another person’s feelings and emotions. You take in what that person has to say and help them feel seen and heard. 

Doing so can seem difficult since it evolves vulnerability and honesty, but with practice the skill can come easier with time. Ultimately, there are so many benefits when it comes to learning how to hold space in your own life.

What does “holding space” do?

There are so many benefits that come from the art of holding space. 

Creates an open, safe environment

When you learn to hold space, you are creating a supportive, judgment-free space that allows others to feel safe and open about their thoughts. 

Builds relationships with others

Holding space can do so much for our relationships with others. It builds trust and promotes a deeper, authentic connection through making each other feel supported and heard. 

Promotes healing and growth

The process of holding space can promote healing and growth in both yourself and others. It can help develop coping mechanisms and increase self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. 

Holding space can even help us regulate several emotions within this safe environment, which can help us from bottling them up. When allowing yourself and others to regulate emotions, you are one step closer to healing any wounds and struggles. 

Builds empathy and understanding

With the practice of holding space and listening to someone’s emotional struggles, you will be building your empathetic skills and understanding for yourself and others. 

How to practice “holding space”

Two women having a deep conversation.
Holding space can help improve your relationships with others as you invite them into an open, safe environment for them to relieve their emotions.

Assure them that they can speak freely

When you make sure to effectively communicate that this space is open for them to speak about what’s on their mind, you are embracing the idea of holding space and making the space comfortable for them. 

Forcing someone to talk with you isn’t always as effective, so assure them that they have an open space to come to – which is essentially you – when they are ready to open up. 

Refraining judgment

The overall goal is to allow the person a space to talk out their feelings without any shame or guilt. The best thing you can do is to avoid inserting opinionated comments on their feelings, that way, you are promoting a safe space for this person. If you were to incorporate judgment, you would be making them feel defensive, affecting their vulnerability. 

And it is entirely possible that you could be inserting judgment and not be aware of it. In that sense, you should practice your self-awareness skills and active listening skills to ensure that the conversation is judgment free. 

You should also be conscious of your facial reactions that could show emotions that can be off-putting for the other individual. The emotional impulses can be a struggle to overcome but when you take in mind that they can hinder the conversation and implement some deep breaths, you can improve your reactions to be non-judgmental. 

If you think of any judgments during the conversation but don’t say them out loud, reflect on those thoughts after the conversation to help you become more open-minded and establish a better understanding for others. 

Avoid centering the conversation on yourself

Use this time to focus on the other person and not yourself. That means, trying not to come up with immediate solutions or give advice based on what you would do. Avoid comparing yourself to their issues as well, it can make them feel overwhelmed. 

Holding space should be a time where you retain your focus on being a supportive friend.  

Acknowledging and validating their feelings

You might not completely understand what the person is going through but it's still important to support someone while they share their feelings. 

You should also be respectful when it comes to their boundaries. Avoid pushing them to share things they might not want to, this will make them feel less comfortable. Strive to validate their struggles but refrain from trying to fix them. To excel the conversation in a healthy manner, ask open-ended questions to help them share further. 

You can ask questions like:

  • How do you envision things moving forward?
  • Can you tell me more about that experience and how it impacted you?
  • What has been the most challenging part for you?

Keep in mind to refrain from asking too many open-ended questions and only ask them at the appropriate time. 

Practice active listening

With the help of active listening skills, you are able to provide your complete attention to the other person, making them feel entirely heard. Plus, it will help you from inserting your own thoughts or judgments. Other active listening skills include maintaining eye contact and nodding your head along.

When using active listening and paying them your whole attention, you are able to get the full story which can then help you create a relative conversation with reflective responses and open-ended questions. 

Embrace the silence

Though complete silence can be awkward, it’s best to embrace it. Refrain from inserting your own comments or thoughts, instead allow the other person to have this silence to process their emotions and to express themselves entirely. Which will cultivate a safer, open environment for them. 


How to hold space for yourself

While it is just as important to hold space with other people, it is also important to hold space for yourself. It can be really easy to just sweep our own emotions away and ignore them, but with the practice of holding space for yourself can help you regulate your emotions as well as get rid of your own self-judgment. Plus, studies have shown that acknowledging your own negative emotions and thoughts is linked to improving your mental health. Here are some ways to hold space for yourself:


One of the first steps of holding space for yourself is to acknowledge that getting rid of your negative feelings will not come very quickly. This process will take time, so patience is an important thing to recognize when enhancing your ability to hold space.  

When relaying self-patience every day, you can become more resilient with yourself, which will help you on your journey to conquer your negative emotions. 

Mindfulness and emotional awareness

Practicing mindfulness can help you remain grounded and focused on the present moment. It will prevent you from judging yourself and others. 

Implementing mindfulness practices in your daily routine can increase your mindfulness substantially. Meditation is another activity you can place in your daily routine, which will help set a time for you to clear your mind of stress and troubles. 

As another form of mindfulness, try journaling to jot down all of your thoughts, emotions, or concerns. This will help you explore your thoughts, especially if you don’t have anyone to speak with at the time. You will begin to connect more with your inner-self when you use journaling as a form of self-reflection and awareness. 


You want to treat yourself as if you were holding space for someone else. This includes being gentle with yourself and practicing self-compassion. Work on accepting your imperfections and struggles and using positive self-talk to give yourself some well-deserved love.  

One way to work on your positive self-talk is to diminish your negative self-talk. This can be:

  • magnifying your issues
  • blaming yourself for a problem
  • always expecting the worst out of something

Use positive affirmations as a tool for self-talk to help you visualize yourself achieving your goals and overcoming your struggles. 


To help nourish your mind and body, engage in self-care activities like getting enough sleep, exercising, or rewarding yourself with a present or treat. This will boost your well-being and reduce stress. 

Self-care activities can be different for everybody, but here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • Engage in acts of kindness
  • Stimulate your mind with puzzles or books
  • Spend time outdoors, either hiking, biking, or just soaking in the sun

A woman journaling her thoughts in a notebook. 
Journaling can help you practice holding space for yourself by jotting down your emotions and connecting with your inner-self.

That’s it for our handy guide on holding space!

Now you know everything there is to know about holding space, you can start practicing and become an expert yourself. You will start to see the benefits that come with it, within your friendships, relationships, and even in yourself!

Jun 30, 2023