What Is Validation Therapy?

Living with dementia can be a challenging experience for both the person with the condition and their loved ones. Fortunately, there are various approaches to help manage and support those affected by the disease. One such approach is validation therapy. Although it may sound complex, validation therapy is a simple yet empathetic way of communicating with someone who has dementia. In this blog post, we’ll explore what validation therapy is, how it’s used in dementia care, and its potential benefits. Join us as we delve deeper into this promising therapeutic technique.

What Is Validation Therapy

Definition of validation therapy

Validation therapy is an approach to communicating with individuals with dementia that focuses on empathy and listening. It aims to acknowledge and validate the individual’s feelings and beliefs, even if they are not entirely based on reality. Validation therapy can help individuals with dementia feel respected and heard, fulfilling their need for validation even amid significant confusion and loss. The technique is centered around a person’s needs and feelings, emphasizing the emotional aspect of communication rather than factual content. Validation therapy aims to prevent argumentative or agitated behaviors and may require agreeing with statements that are not true or real. By joining the individual’s reality and offering alternatives, validation therapy can help provide comfort and reassurance.

Importance of validation therapy in communicating with people with dementia

Validation therapy is a vital approach to communicating with people who have dementia, as it helps to ease their feelings of confusion, disorientation, and memory loss. By practicing empathy and understanding, validation therapy provides a way for caregivers and family members to connect with those affected by dementia. It enables them to gain insight into the emotions that drive the behavior of their loved ones and understand their perspectives. Validation therapy can reduce argumentative and agitated behaviors, leading to a more harmonious relationship between caregivers and those with dementia. The importance of understanding and using validation therapy cannot be overstated, as it can provide emotional and psychological benefits for those with dementia and their caregivers.

Principles of Validation Therapy

Eleven Principles by Naomi Feil

The Method created by Naomi Feil is based on 11 principles that guide caregivers when communicating with people with dementia. These principles emphasize the importance of acknowledging and valuing the person’s opinions and beliefs, empathizing with their emotional experiences, and offering alternatives to reduce distress. Feil suggests that caregivers should listen with empathy, acknowledge painful feelings, and accept maloriented and disoriented elderly individuals as they are without attempting to change them. Her principles aim to build trust, reduce anxiety, restore dignity, and provide hope. Caregivers must remember that every elderly person is unique and worthwhile and that personal symbols used by maloriented or disoriented elderly individuals can help caregivers understand the behavior that underlies their emotions. By following these principles, caregivers can enjoy quality time with their loved ones and create meaningful connections that transcend age and cognition.

Theoretical Assumptions and Bases

The theoretical assumptions and bases of Validation Therapy are rooted in the work of well-known theorists such as Maslow, Freud, Piaget, Jung, and Rogers. These assumptions are also believed to apply to the general population. Validation Therapy is based on the belief that individuals with dementia are unique and valuable. The therapy acknowledges that people with dementia are in the final stage of life and may be driven by their need to take care of unfinished business, so they can face death peacefully. The method of communication places more emphasis on the emotional aspect of a conversation and less on the factual content to impart respect to the person, their feelings, and their beliefs. The goal is to communicate with respect, showing that their opinions and beliefs are valued and esteemed rather than dismissed or marginalized.

Benefits of Validation Therapy

Validation therapy has several emotional and psychological benefits for people with dementia. By focusing on empathy and listening, validation therapy helps to decrease argumentative and agitated behaviors. It also encourages joining the person in their reality, acknowledging and valuing their opinions and beliefs, and offering alternatives. These principles help to promote emotional healing and allow the person with dementia to feel heard and understood. Validation therapy also helps to reduce feelings of loneliness and prevent depression by addressing the underlying emotional issues that often lead to challenging behaviors. Overall, validation therapy can improve the emotional well-being of people living with dementia and help them feel more connected to their caregivers and loved ones.

Decrease in argumentative and agitated behaviors

Validation has proven to be successful in decreasing argumentative and agitated behaviors among individuals with dementia. This form of therapy focuses on empathy and listening, demonstrating respect towards the person’s opinions and beliefs, even if they are not factual. Validation therapy’s emphasis on emotional communication rather than factual content has been observed to prevent argumentative behavior and provide comfort and calmness to individuals with dementia. Studies have found that integrated validation therapy has resulted in decreased agitation levels among residents in long-term care facilities, while anecdotal evidence supports the effectiveness of validation therapy in reducing emotional distress. Overall, validation therapy is a tool worth understanding and using in certain circumstances for individuals with dementia.

How Validation Therapy Works

Validation therapy is all about communicating with people with dementia by focusing on empathy and listening. This form of therapy acknowledges the person even if what they are communicating is not factual. This approach is essential for people with dementia who have a heightened need for acceptance since their perception of the world around them has been greatly impacted. Validation therapy has successfully reduced argumentative and agitated behaviors among people with dementia. The emphasis on empathy and listening is generally comforting and calming to individuals suffering from dementia. By joining the person in their reality and acknowledging their opinions and beliefs, validation therapy fosters a positive and respectful exchange, which can benefit both the person with dementia and their caregiver.

Joining the person in their reality

Joining the person in their reality is a key principle in validation therapy. It means meeting the person with dementia where they are, whether that’s in a different time or place or believing their perceptions even if they don’t align with reality. This approach may require caregivers to enter into the person’s world and share in their feelings, emotions, and experiences. By joining them in their reality, caregivers can build trust, create a sense of safety, and validate their emotions. This can lead to emotional and psychological benefits for the person, including increased calmness, relaxation, and reduced agitation. Overall, joining the person in their reality is an important strategy in providing compassionate and empathetic care for those with dementia.

Techniques in Validation Therapy

Validation acknowledges and values the opinions and beliefs of people with dementia. Even if what they are saying is not factual, validation therapy recognizes the importance of their emotions and feelings. This approach is based on the principle that individuals with dementia have a need for validation and acceptance, and their behaviors are driven by their need to take care of unfinished business. Rather than dismissing their thoughts and beliefs, validation therapy offers alternatives and encourages empathetic communication. By joining the person in their reality and showing respect for their opinions, validation therapy can provide emotional and psychological benefits for people with dementia, including a decrease in argumentative and agitated behaviors.

Offering alternatives

One of the key principles of validation therapy is offering alternatives. When communicating with someone with dementia, it is important to provide options and choices in order to maintain their sense of control and independence. This can include offering different activities, food choices, or even clothing options. By offering alternatives, you are acknowledging and respecting the person’s preferences and opinions while also avoiding potential conflict or agitation. Additionally, offering alternatives can help to redirect the person’s attention and positively refocus their energy. It is important to remember that every person with dementia is unique and may respond differently to different options, so it may take some trial and error to find what works best for each individual.

Effectiveness of Validation Therapy

Research on validation therapy has yielded mixed results. While some studies have shown it to be effective in reducing agitation levels and emotional distress in dementia patients, others have concluded that insufficient evidence supports its effectiveness. An integrated validation therapy variation has positively reduced agitation levels in long-term care facilities. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that validation therapy may not work for everyone and may even irritate some patients. Despite these mixed research results, validation therapy can be a valuable tool in dementia care when used appropriately. It emphasizes compassionate communication and empathy, which are essential for providing quality care to dementia patients.

Personal clinical experiences

As a clinical practitioner, I have experienced instances where validation therapy has worked well for people with dementia. However, in some cases, it failed to bring any positive result and only ended up irritating the person. The success of this therapy may vary depending on the individual’s unique needs and personality. Therefore, it is important to understand and use this technique with patience, compassion, and empathy. By placing ourselves in the person’s situation and listening to them with respect, we can help them feel heard, valued, and acknowledged. Validation therapy may not work for everyone, but it can be useful when applied appropriately.


Compassionate communication and empathy are essential components of providing effective care to people with dementia. Validation therapy offers an excellent framework for caregivers to enter the world of an individual with dementia and understand their perspective. The 11 principles of Validation Therapy emphasize listening with empathy, acknowledging painful emotions, and valuing the person as unique and worthwhile. By joining the person in their reality and offering alternatives, the caregiver can promote emotional and psychological benefits, decreasing agitated behavior. While mixed research results exist regarding the effectiveness of Validation Therapy, it highlights the importance of compassionate communication and empathy in dementia care. By focusing on the person’s emotions rather than their behavior, caregivers can provide individualized care and enhance the person’s well-being.

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