Mental Health and Wellness Center

Stories about mental health, addiction, positive thinking

Inspirational Stories

Holding Space

What the heck does holding space for yourself and people in your life mean? Throughout life I thought I was holding space and I realized I was doing all the opposite things of holding space for myself and especially others.

I recently had a weekend filled with space holding from some fierce women, that I am in awe of. Not only did one or two of us display this, but all four of us were on the same page and it was one of the most healing things that I have experienced.  Ladies you know who you are, and thank you!

For me, holding space is the process of being presently aware of your emotional state, while also being attuned to someone else’s emotional state, whatever that may look like.  Let’s be honest, this is hard work and often not displayed.

"As humans it is difficult for us to hold space for ourselves, and even more difficult for others.  As a society the processing of emotions is about as exciting as taking out the trash, no one enjoys it. We run, we escape, we distract but what happens when that no longer works?"

As a counselor holding space should be easy right? I mean didn’t you learn that in college?  Let me be clear, this is difficult for many people, especially myself at times.  We always have an opinion, advice or response … sometimes the best response is no response. 

To hold space for others you have to be self-aware, vulnerable, and honest, know your shortcomings, and have good self-care with yourself all while being empathetic to the other person’s journey.  Holding space is difficult because we (especially men) are hardwired to fix things. We always have a response. But in this situation, it requires us to listen and have empathy without attaching our values, beliefs, or emotions to it. In short, you’re creating a space for someone to be completely vulnerable without all your slime and glitter getting into the mix.  Holding space doesn’t mean you disregard your emotions or get sucked into theirs, but essentially staying neutral as I like to say. Finding the balance.

Some things I have learned about holding space for anyone is: You have to know yourself, inside and out … that you are human and your emotions will get in the way. It’s inevitable. Knowing yourself and your buttons allows you to be prepared for whatever is going on with someone else, without letting your stuff seep in. 

Self-awareness and self-love are a MUST. 

When you are triggered and you want to respond, you acknowledge your feeling but instead you use empathy and non-judgment, and create space for the other person to divulge their issues, vulnerabilities and emotions. 

It is not about you or your story (this time around), and validation is essential to the other person! 

Always empathy over shame!

Next time you find yourself in a situation with someone, practice holding space for them and accepting them for all that they are. You may find some peace in it .


Alex Atkinson is a Licensed Alcohol Drug, and Mental Health Counselor. Alex received a Bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University, majoring in Sociology and minoring in Psychology. She received her Master’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in Substance Abuse Counseling. Alex has experience working with children and adults on a wide variety of issues including anxiety, depression, anger, behavioral issues, substance abuse, life skills, trauma and grief. Her passion is diagnosing and treating drug addicts, alcoholics, and family members impacted by addiction. Alex believes in a holistic counseling approach allowing clients to grow into the best version of themselves. In her free time Alex enjoys traveling , volunteering , yoga and reading.