In this essay, I will discuss the relational approach in terms of attachment theory and repeating relational patterns. Further, I will show how the relational model builds on various theoretical perspectives namely the psychodynamic and humanistic traditions.
I will consider how the relational approach impacts on the counsellor's way of being with the client. I will illustrate this with examples drawn from my own client base in my placement, without including any identifiable information in order to maintain confidentiality. I have referred to the individual clients concerned as clients A, B and C. Finally, I will then outline the implications of working with a culturally diverse population.
The Relational Approach and Attachment Theory
Several theories (Holmes, Paul & Pelham 1996, p229) have been formulated over recent years in order to understand the intricacies of human relationships, namely Gestalt theory and the Relational Approach. I will discuss only the latter in this essay.
The relational model of counselling brings together the psychodynamic and humanistic traditions.
Psychodynamics is a theory and systematic study of the relationship between conscious and unconscious motivations. Early psychodynamic theory was developed by Sigmund Freud and by the mid 1950s the general application of this theory had been well established. Psychodynamic counselling tries to get the client to bring to the surface their true feelings which are present in the subconscious. It is very directive, analytical and clinical method of counselling. The humanistic approach arose as a response to Freud's negative view of human behaviour. It was developed during the 1950's by Maslow and Rogers among others.
They believed in order for a person to become a self actualised fully able person they need as well as their basic needs (food and shelter) humans need to feel safe, loved and accepted and only then they can love themselves. An important facet of this approach is self examination and the belief that we all have the capacity to grow, and resolve our own problems. A combination of these theories enables the counsellor to be more integrative and flexible within their work with clients.
The relational approach concentrates not only on the client and his/her issues but also on the relationship between counsellor and the client. A central defining assumption of this approach is the importance of relations in the development of self, especially childhood and infancy (Greenberg & Mitchell 1983).
In our day to day relationships we act in certain ways (sometime subconsciously) that lead us to be treated by others in ways that form often repeating patterns of behaviour. We fall into patterns of behaviour which can have a negative effect on our lives. These behavioural patterns also get acted out within the client counsellor relationship; this is referred to as transference which I am going to discuss later in this essay.
Experiencing these common behaviours within a therapeutic relationship (in an atmosphere of trust and safety) can be enough to bring about lasting changes. It is essential therefore to spend the first few sessions with a new client establishing a good working relationship.