Connections between Compassionate Touch® and the Validation Method

Connecting with an individual and not the disease

The Validation method was developed by Naomi Feil in the 1970s and formalized into a method that she first published in 1982. Her pioneer work set off a massive change in elder care. I call Naomi, the godmother of ‘person-centered’ care.

I also call her, ‘mom’. As the daughter of Naomi, a certified Validation Master Teacher, and current Executive Director of her company, Validation Training Institute, I have deep understanding of, and appreciation for the ripples her work inspired in the lake of our field.

Validation helped shift the focus from ‘fed, bathed, clothed’ to ‘let’s make nursing homes – homes for older adults.’ Instead of focusing on the needs of the staff, it shifted to trying to satisfy the needs of the residents. And this flowed not only through long-term care facilities but also adult day care, assisted living, home care and even hospice care.

Those of you familiar with Compassionate Touch will immediately see the shared values and similarities with Validation. These two non-pharmaceutical methods aim to make life better for older adults, especially those living with dementia. The goals are similar – improve the quality of life for these older adults through a loving, respectful relationship. Compassionate Touch requires what is called Compassionate Presence and is described in this way:

  • you connect with individual rather than the disease
  • you connect in the moment as it unfolds
  • you accept the reality and current experience of the person you are serving

This is just like the basic attitude that is used when we validate someone and certainly reflects key Validation Principles:

  • All disoriented, older adults are unique and worthwhile,
  • they should be accepted as they are. We do not try to change them.
  • Listening with empathy builds trust; trust reduces anxiety and restores dignity.
  • There is a reason behind the behavior of older adults living with cognitive decline. Usually, the reason is related to one of the basic human needs.

Validation can be most simply described as a method to connect and communicate with older adults living with cognitive decline. We focus on accompanying the older adult in the expression of needs and feelings, in the moment. The practitioner encourages older adults to verbally or non-verbally communicate even (especially?) when there are painful emotions (anger or sadness for example) because Feil discovered that when painful emotions are expressed to an empathetic listener, they lesson. We have empathy and as Naomi often says, step into the shoes of the other person.

Validation can be learned on different levels. Simple, basic skills that lead to integrating the basic attitude are taught both online and in-person. Complex skills (all the verbal and non-verbal communication techniques) are taught in certification courses which take time because changing your automatic behaviors requires trial and error, practice and coaching. Over 30 years of offering certification courses have shown VTI and its Authorized training centers that this level of skill building takes between 6-9 months.

I believe that a combination of Validation communication skills and Compassionate Touch gives practitioners a broad and useful set of tools that will help them feel more capable of handling challenging situations and experience more joy in their work. I am sure this combination will enhance the dignity of older adults living with cognitive decline and help them find peace in their final stage of life.

If you would like to learn more about the Validation method, visit our site.

Blog Contributor: Vicki de Klerk-Rubin, The Validation Institute

Download Compassionate  Touch White Paper

Subscribe to Our Blog