In another blog on ‘experiences of therapy’ I have said that contemporary psychotherapy is based on relationship theory and trauma theory.
The therapeutic relationship which has also been called an ‘intimate relationship’ (Russell Meares, 2000) is one in which we are free to be ourselves and from this position we are also free to explore who we are – in terms of our motivations, our intentions, our feelings, our values and beliefs.
We can start to discern and to understand our patterns of experience and behaviour. We start to feel freer in ourselves to experience and to get on with our lives.
For people who have grown up with ‘intimate relationships’ and who have been mostly able to ‘be themselves’ in life – trust in relationships will be pretty much taken for granted. We trust ourselves and know how to assess who we can ‘rely on’ and ‘for what’. We can make use of ‘good enough’ relationships to get what we need to maintain a strong sense of self. And we are able to give others close to us, what ‘they need’. For these people a therapeutic relationship may be quickly established.
However, many people, who come to therapy with longstanding mental health issues, have not grown up in an environment of relationships that provide reliability and emotional sustenance. For these people and their therapists, the major initial and ongoing task in therapy is the formation between patient and therapist of a ‘therapeutic relationship’ – one in which more and more the patient is free to be themselves and to explore their experience of day to day life, their ‘inner life’ – particularly we are referring to our everyday experience of ourselves in relationship with others.