One of the reasons people enter therapy is that their relationships are failing. Relationships with partners, parents, friends, colleagues, siblings. And relationship failure can cause great pain.
What can a relational therapist do to help?
Firstly, develop a strong, therapeutic relationship with the client. The client can use the therapeutic relationship to experiment with ideas and feelings – in the here-and-now, within safe boundaries. The therapeutic relationship can also be used as a blueprint for more successful relationships, out there in the “real world”.
Secondly, the therapist can help the client identify, and ultimately overcome, obstacles to better relationships. A counsellor-client conversation may begin as follows:
‘What brings you to therapy?’
‘I am feeling really down; I don’t enjoy anything much at the moment. My relationship with my partner is pretty bad. We don’t seem to get on anymore.’
Attempting, single-handedly, to re-ignite a client’s zest for life would be an enormous, perhaps impossible, challenge. Instead, the therapist can help the client to perceive the obstacles to better relationships. In this case, improved communication with the partner would be a good start.
A relational therapist might start by asking him/herself, how does the client communicate with me in therapy? From this, they can learn how the client tends to communicate with others, out there in the “real world”.
Relational therapy can be challenging. Many obstacles, it turns out, are self-created and self-maintained, by the client. Overcoming them will involve new levels of painful honesty and ultimate success requires investments of both time and money.
‘What do I have to gain from these investments, and the painful honesty, demanded of me in therapy?’
The answer is better relationships with the people in your life, and better relationships equal a better life.
Any therapist who believes that their own relationship with the client is fundamental to progress.
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