Dialogue, Love, and Human Connection In Life and Therapy

Topics covered:  A definition of dialogue, a definition of love, how they come together in conversation, understanding common humanity, the requirements of dialogue, facing others through dialogue, love and dialogue in therapy. Length: 50:58

Class Notes

About Ili

Ili Rivera Walter, PhD, LMFT is the founder and facilitator of The Refreshed Therapist Network. She offers resources for psychotherapists on Family Therapy Basics. Learn more about Ili, here.


  • We can see our monsters, our enemies, and strangers as human beings. This seeing is love.


Mikhail Bakhtin

  • Polyphony: The self as a position of a multitude of ideas that inform one another and converge in our mind an experiences. There is no need to choose one over another. Polyphony is complexity.

  • Human existence is dialogical.

Martin Buber

  • The I-Thou Relation: Moments when we can be fully present with others in complete honesty, and also invite and accept others’ truth. Once this occurs in a relationship, it can occur again.

  • The I-Thou relation mimics the reality of what it means to be human. As a result, within these moments, we also encounter the wholeness of existence.

  • Imagining the real: It’s possible to concretely imagine the reality of another during the I-Thou relation (during dialogical moments). To be present to the degree that the other person’s experience is understandable, from their perspective.

Dialogism is the foundation of dialogue as a conversation.


Humberto Maturana

  • Love is consent

  • Love is the foundation of human evolution; it is evolutionary

  • Love is the reason language exists

  • Love can be individually carried into relationships and create a relational space of love

Francisco Varela

  • Love is wisdom

  • Love reveals a collective consciousness

  • The experience of collective consciousness is love

  • Love is virtuous; it is a way of being

Paolo Freire"Love is, at the same time, the foundation of dialogue, and dialogue itself."

  • Love is freedom

  • Love is faith

Dialogical Encouter

  • Vulnerability

  • Curiosity

  • Faith

  • Suspension

  • Transparency

  • Presence

Love-as-Dialogue: "Love becomes a felt experience of interacting with others in dialogue, because dialogue allows for and invites participants to be part of a process, a togetherness, that brings to the center of the meeting the reality that as human beings, we are the same" (Rivera-Walter, 2017).

Dialogue is Love in Action

Murray Bowen:  Facing Our Parents

  • Developing a person-to-person relationship

  • Pushing through anxiety develops relational skills that can be transferred to all relationships

Is Dialogue Always Worthwhile?

  • We honor our human experience

  • It’s about the engagement, not the response

  • “Facing” primes the interaction

  • Disengagement is betrayal

  • Dialogical living—the dialogical way—is found in choosing engagement as response

Love-as-Dialogue in Therapy

Therapy as Encounter

  • Dialogical Practice

    • Invitation

    • Questioning

    • Difference

    • Relational Meaning

  • Turn your love on

    • Love for clients is needed for change

    • Love influences and generates specific language

A Systemic View of Love

  • Therapy as first a human interaction

  • Welcoming “love” into therapy conversations

  • Standing for integration of humanity first in training and practice.


Rivera-Walter, I. (2017). Love as Dialogue:  Finding Human Connection In Conversation. Nova Southeastern University, Davie, FL.

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