Not only will the quality of the facilitator's decisions be based on how well she gets what the client is saying. Part of the therapeutic value for the client is that there is somebody there who actually listens to everything she says and understands her situation. That in itself is unique as far as human interaction goes, and it accounts for a significant portion of the results.
The facilitator will indicate the receipt of each significant chunk of communication. That means that the facilitator must be in rapport with the client's need for acknowledgment. She not only needs to look generally interested, she needs to display additional interest and comprehension of the points that the client finds particularly important. Even if the facilitator would otherwise have no interest whatsoever in the current subject, in a session she needs to put herself into a mode where she IS interested, and she does reflect the client's interest in the subject.
Commonly one would mark the conclusion of a significant point with an acknowledgment, a nod, a smile, or some statement of conclusion. The key is that the sender feels listened to and understood.
For processing purposes it is important that the facilitator's acknowledging noises don't color the communication in a way that isn't useful. The facilitator must take the communication exactly as it is, without reacting to it, or having an attitude about it, and she must let the client know just that.
The only reason for aiming for anything but neutral receiving is as part of a technique. That doesn't mean that the facilitator gets any license to not understand, or to have opinions about the client. It just means that sometimes there is an opportunity for setting a useful direction simply by the way one is receiving the communication. It is possible to be an attentive listener but still reframe what is received in a way that works for the person. By exclaiming "Great!" a little more enthusiastically than expected when the client is describing her situation might succeed in reframing it as an asset rather than a problem. But, pay close attention to being in rapport and know exactly what you are doing before you attempt something like that.
The way you are receiving essentially controls the flow of the client's communication. You can start or stop the communication, you can steer the client towards different emotional states, you can change subjects, you can reframe, you can elicit hidden material, etc. And you can do a lot of that without the client really realizing that you are doing anything but just sitting there listening. A fair portion of the facilitator's skill is in the art of receiving.
If you are only sitting listening to whatever the client comes up with and waiting to see where he will end up you are not much value to her. But if you are receiving and at the same time monitoring and directing where we are going, then there is a tremendous difference in results.
You need to be an active recipient. You control the flow of the client's attention and communication.
The trainer will speak important sounding nonsense or noises. The student needs to provide appropriate feedback and acknowledgment as if something really is being said. In other words, she needs to maintain rapport with the trainer, letting her know that she is being listened to and understood. The student must obviously pay attention to the way things are being said rather than to the content.
- Appropriate Responses:
The trainer gives the student a varied assortment of statements. These can be from a list, or from a fiction book containing dialogue, or the trainer can just make them up. Some will be very ordinary, some will be very surprising, some will be insulting or vulgar, some will be unintelligible, some will be incomplete. The student must listen carefully and get the full communication. If she doesn't get it she must ask to get it repeated or clarified. If the communication is incomplete she must encourage it to be completed. When she has understood the communication she must supply an appropriate response or acknowledgment that both fits the content of the message and lets the trainer know she has been fully understood.
S: "What does that mean?"
T: "I saw a fly in the air"
T: "I am going to be famous"
S: "Sounds good"
T: "You are a fucking asshole!"
T: "The problem is .."
T: "that I am hungry"
S: "I understand"
T: "This is a wonderful session"
S: "I'm glad you think so"
- Full stop:
The trainer talks to the student. The student must receive the communication in a way so as to stop the flow, leading the trainer to feel that the communication is complete. The student must respond with the appropriate intensity and clarity to provide an obvious end, but without overwhelming. This can relate to the finality of what the student says and to a certain firmness in her voice. A simple "Thank you" can do it, it doesn't particularly have anything to do with how complex the statement is.
Now the trainer gives a statement to the student and the student needs to respond in a way so as to invite more communication. She needs to lead the trainer to say more on the same subject, to continue further along the path she started. This might be done simply by looking up expectantly, by raising one's eyebrows, by saying "Uh huh?", or "Please continue" or whatever. It has to be appropriate and neither too much or too little, so subtlety is something to work on.
- Starting conversation:
Trainer just simulates either doing nothing, being bored just looking around, or being occupied with something. The student needs to strike up a conversation with the trainer. Not just any conversation, but one that matches where the person is at. One way of doing that is to notice where the person's attention is and comment or contribute to that.
- Change subject:
The trainer and student start talking about a certain subject, and the trainer tries to maintain the subject. The student's job is change to a different subject. The trainer will resist more or less mildly and will only follow along if she really feels led to the different subject. The student needs to exercise how to smoothly shift a conversation in a different direction, or also how to interrupt a conversation more abruptly and then put it in a different direction. Some techniques that can be used are to associate the current subject with what else one plans to talk about, creating a bridge between them. Also, non-sequitur behavior can break the routine.