How Parroting Is Used in Therapy

An Effective Conversational Technique

Woman talking to a therapist

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Parroting is a conversational technique that can be quite effective in therapy. The therapist loosely repeats what the client has just said. The twin goals of this technique are ensuring that the therapist heard what was said correctly, and encouraging the client to further clarify his or her thoughts.

Effective Use

When parroting, it is important not to go too far. It is much better to repeat only the last few words than to attempt to repeat several sentences. Additionally, repetitive parroting can become annoying. It can also make the client feel nervous or edgy.

When used properly, parroting can help encourage the client to talk through all sides of an issue and come to their own logical conclusion.

Part of Talk Therapy

Parroting is used in talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy. Talk therapy is based on the core idea that talking about the things that are bothering you can help clarify them and put them in perspective. Some talk therapists follow a specific school of thought, such as cognitive theory or behaviorism. Others use a more eclectic approach, drawing techniques, and principles from several different theories.

Goals of Therapy

Anyone seeking therapy should have goals in mind. If you're a phobia sufferer, your goal likely is to be freed of your irrational fears. Other goals of therapy are:

  • Learn to deal with the disorder. The ultimate goal of any type of therapy is to help the client deal more successfully with a disorder or a situation.
  • Make goals specific. The specific treatment goals depend on the individual client, the therapist’s theories, and the situation at hand. The goal may be concrete, such as quitting smoking, or more abstract, such as anger management.
  • Overcome and manage fear. When talk therapy is used for phobia treatment, there are generally two goals. One is to help the client overcome fear. The second goal is to help the client learn to manage any remaining fear so that he or she is able to live a normal, functional life.
  • Resolve underlying issues: Some forms of talk therapy have a third goal. In psychoanalysis and related therapies, the goal is to discover and resolve the underlying conflict that caused the phobia or other disorder. In interpersonal therapies, the goal is to resolve problems in interpersonal relationships that have resulted from or contributed to the phobia or other disorders.
2 Sources
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  1. Lord SP, Sheng E, Imel ZE, Baer J, Atkins DC. More than reflections: Empathy in motivational interviewing includes language style synchrony between therapist and clientBehav Ther. 2015;46(3):296-303. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2014.11.002

  2. American Psychological Association. Understanding psychotherapy and how it works.

By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.