The Art of Holding Space for Loved Ones


One of the great challenges for empaths and all sensitive people is how to help others without burning out. As a psychiatrist, I’ve observed that my patients get most exhausted when they try too hard to fix or help their spouses, children, or friends. The art of holding space is a skill that empaths must learn. Holding space means that we are present for people we love by radiating caring, nonjudgmental, and calm energy—but we don’t try to fix them or absorb their distress.

Holding space is a loving kindness practice that you can use when you are supporting others. It’s more about “being” that “doing.” Your energy and attitude can make all the difference. Here is an excerpt to guide you from my book Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People. The more you practice radiating this heart-centered awareness, the easier holding space will become.

A Holding Space Practice

When you’re with someone you care about who is going through a hard time or is expressing joy, it is a beautiful skill to hold space for them. This means that you choose to be totally present with that person. (Holding space is not something you offer everyone in need.) Your mind is still: You’re not overly involved. You’re not thinking about how to change or fix them. You’re not focused on your own emotions, which may be getting triggered. Instead, you look at them with love, listen with your heart, and hold a positive, nonjudgmental space for this person to just Be.

Holding space is a gift that you have to offer. I often do this for my patients and with friends. You’re creating an aura of love which extends from you to them. Never underestimate the power of holding space for someone. It can be a vehicle for deep healing.

Set your intention. I will hold a loving space for someone today. I will be completely present for them.

(Excerpt from “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People” by Judith Orloff, MD)

Judith Orloff, MD is a New York Times bestselling author with the upcoming book The Genius of Empathy: Practical Skills to Heal Yourself, Your Relationships and the World (Foreword by the Dalai Lama). She has also written The Empath’s Survival Guide and Thriving as an Empath, which offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people. She integrates the pearls of conventional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, empathy, energy medicine, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice and online internationally. Her work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA, TEDx U.S. and TEDx Asia. More information about Dr. Orloff’s Empathy Training Programs for businesses, The Empath Survival Guide Online Course and speaking schedule at

Connect with Judith on  FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

7 thoughts on “The Art of Holding Space for Loved Ones

  1. Thank you dr. Judith Orloff I am reading our your articles and blogs thank you so much you have opened my eyes and i need more skills holding the space and how to react. I am too caring person. and reacting too quckly for needs of others. .

  2. Dear Judith, thank you for your writings. I am an empath and pushed to the point of chronic illness….seeking to change my ways: improve the quality of MY life and that will touch those I love most.
    Healing, motherhood and marriage, all gifts if you know how to hold space……I am willing to learn.

  3. I am finding your book ‘Thriving as an Empath’ a great comfort for beginning another day! All information relating to an ‘Empath’ I have came across, I seem to feel I can connect with you, that much more! Stay Safe! X

  4. I have a problem with sharing my anxieties with friends. I have always tried to be there for people but I have always given the image I am in control of my feelings. Now I am afraid of letting people know what I am going through and don’t have confidence in sharing. I came off antidepressants which was horrendous and now with the corona virus I am getting more depressed and afraid.

  5. Dear Judith,

    Just when I needed an injection of hope, love and wisdom, your kind words appear.

    Thank you for all that you give to so many of us.


  6. This definition of “holding space” is clear and especially relevant to me now, since both my husband and I are grieving the passing of our beloved dog, Perky, who brought us so much love, joy, loyal companionship, and so much more for over 16 years. The thing is, we are grieving in different ways and often at different times, so your comments are so useful to me now with how to hold space for my husband when he is grieving, and also to hold space for myself as well.

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