Validation can be described as the acceptance and recognition of a client’s thoughts, sensations, behaviors, and feelings as understandable. It is a very powerful tool in counseling that takes learning and practice to do effectively.

There are 3 main types of validation detailed in this article: Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive.

Emotional validation can be done when a client validates the client’s emotion without escalating it. This can be done by focusing on the primary emotion that the client is experiencing. For example- Anger is a common secondary emotion that a client reports and they find it difficult to recognize the hurt or sad feelings underneath. When we validate the client, focusing on the underlying emotions helps them shift the focus and in turn, allows them to identify the variety of emotions they are undergoing. This type of validation helps the client to:

a) Express emotions as the psychologist listens, clarifies, and helps identify emotions.

b) Understand that their perspective of the situation is acknowledged

Self-disclosure is a type of emotional validation and involves letting yourself experience and display the appropriate emotional response to the situation being shared by the client. For example, tearing up when a client shares something emotional or laughing at something funny.

Behavioral validation is used in every session. At the beginning of the session, while going over a client’s behaviors over the last week both maladaptive and adaptive we are communicating to them that you get it. This type of validation makes the client feel acknowledged even if they were unskillful or skillful throughout the week

However, we need to note the fine line between validating and reinforcing. You can stay away from reinforcing behavior by objectively describing the behavior they shared. For example- Stating non-judgmentally that the client displayed a certain behavior without getting overly intense or assigning too much meaning to it.  This can be done by simply repeating back the facts shared by the client.

Cognitive validation involves identifying and recognizing identifies the underlying belief, expectancies assumptions, and rules of the client. We can do this by looking for patterns in what has been shared so far and articulating them and finding validity in them. For example- stating that a client didn’t go ahead with deciding because of a belief they hold very deeply about themselves.

To be able to do this, having a database of information regarding the client’s patterns so far can help predict the behavior that they may display and the beliefs behind it.

Validation has the potential and power to strengthen the client-therapist relationship and overall helps improve empathy, understanding, emotional awareness, and communication.

Importance of Professional Counseling: A friend or family member may listen to you, but they aren’t professionally, technically qualified or experienced to offer you professional advice. If you wish you can contact us at MindTribe to receive help from our team of expert psychologists.


MindTribe Founder Dr. Prerna Kohli, India’s eminent psychologist, established the company to leverage the strength of the online to make counseling affordable and accessible to everyone. MindTribe provides counseling, workshops, support groups, forums, and eLearning.

About the Author.

Suchetha Narayanan Kutty is a psychologist at You can learn more about her by clicking here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of, the Founders, or management team.

Acknowledgement: All images used are open source and from Unsplash.


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