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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Nonverbal and Paraverbal Communication


Although I practice Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), strictly through use of teletherapy, I still find it important to pay attention to nonverbal and paraverbal communication even though I usually can’t observe the lower half of my clients’ bodies.


According to one source:


Nonverbal communication means conveying information without using words. This might involve using certain facial expressions or hand gestures to make a specific point, or it could involve the use (or non-use) of eye contact, physical proximity, and other nonverbal cues to get a message across.


To illustrate how this form of interpretive communication functions, I invite you to take a look at the following photo:



What do you imagine is being conveyed by the individual in the yellow shirt? Her brow is slightly wrinkled, communicating concern. As well, her mouth is open, indicating she’s communicating a message.


Notice how her head is slightly tilted to the side, as to imply that she’s soliciting a response from the other person. Additionally, the individual in the yellow shirt is out of focus, placing the emphasis of attention on the other person.


What do you perceive about the experience of the person in the white shirt? Her brow is unwrinkled and her eyes, with eyelids in a relaxed position, are fixated in the opposite direction of the speaker.


While the person in white has her body turned toward the individual in the yellow shirt, the recipient of the message is depicted as not paying attention or as communicating indifference. As well, her mouth is closed and is without a specific indicator of attitude.


All of this I gleaned from interpretive nonverbal communication. These and other elements of body language are what I monitor when working with clients using REBT facilitated by teletherapy software.


According to a separate source, “Paraverbal communication refers to the messages that we transmit through the tone, pitch, and pacing of our voices. It is how we say something, not what we say.”


Giving a direct example of the paraverbal communication technique, the source uses italics to emphasize portions of the description. I, too, do this within my blog when addressing demandingness through use of should, must, and ought-type statements.


To illustrate how clients communicate using paraverbal communication, I invite you to consider the following sentences:


·  “Deric, I honestly HATE everyone who drives SO fucking slow in the fast lane that I wanna give them a fucking piece of my mind!”


·  “Every time…EVERY single time, I say…when I’m in a hurry, I hit EVERY red light on my way to work! Every time!!”


·  “I CAN’T believe that people would actually vote for HIM! You’d have to be as morally bankrupt as him in order to literally say, ‘I’m with HIM for president,” through your vote!”


Even though I’m currently communicating through written form, you can probably understand the conveyed paraverbal indicators of dissatisfaction in my tone. Now, imagine sitting in a session with someone whose vocal tone, pitch, and pacing varies in such a manner.


Regarding nonverbal and paraverbal communication, pages 46 and 47 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion invite REBT practitioners to pay close attention to these indicators of reaction when working with clients. Consequently, use of my eyes is as important as use of my ears when practicing REBT.


For instance, if I detect a discrepancy between what a client says verbally and what the client appears to be saying nonverbally or paraverbally, this inconsistency may be worth addressing. More so with treatment than management of symptoms, I’ll directly reflect my interpretation of what a client says and what I see.


Understanding the differences in verbal, nonverbal, and paraverbal communication can enrich REBT sessions—the importance of which cannot be overstated when using teletherapy. With this knowledge, how might you consider what you’re saying—without actually saying—a message in the future?


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




Cherry, K. (2023, February 22). Types of nonverbal communication. Verywell Mind. Retrieved from

Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, June 20). Teletherapy. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Windle, R. and Warren, S. (n.d.). Communication skills. The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education. Retrieved from

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