Relational Approach to Counselling

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The Relational Approach to Counselling

I this essay I intend to demonstrate my understanding of the Relational Approach and its underlying theory. I will show throughout this essay that it is essential to understand relationships, their development and impact on humans. I am also going to discuss the concept of secure base and repeating relational patterns. I will then consider the implications of working with a culturally diverse population and how this effect the counsellor‘s way of being with the client. At the heart of the client’s and counsellor relationship is empathy. I will look at the importance of empathy being applied within the therapeutic relationship. I will illustrate this essay using examples from my own client base as well as referring to my own life experiences. Relational model of counselling is a synthesis of both humanistic and psychodynamic theories. A central defining assumption of this approach is the importance of relations in the development of self, especially childhood and infancy. Environmental factors also play a crucial part (Stephen Mitchell 1988, 1993: Greenberg & Mitchell 1993). The relational approach looks at the sum total of an individual’s relationships from early childhood through to adulthood, i.e. the present. In order to create the therapeutic alliance, an atmosphere of comfort should be established. Trust and reassurance become critical and mutual agreement must take place. Client and counsellor can best work together with a particular emphasis on clear contracting and clear stating of boundaries (Kahn 1991). Throughout an individual life span personal development will be affected by the relationships with other people and objects. A person’s sense of self develops through relations with others (Rogers. 1961, Winnicott. 1990: Stern. 1985: Brazelton &Cramer. 1991). Relations in the development of self are central to this theory as Holmes noted, and “physical and psychological dependency in infancy and childhood ensures the crucial importance of caregivers”. It is a relationship bond that develops between a child and the primary caregiver and is defining as “attachment” (Homes 1996). People are generally born into a well-built and loving relationship (Mean&Cooper 2005). Defining oneself is especially influenced by relationships (Cooper 2005). However relationship can also be harmful. For example if a negative criticism comes from within the relationship. It can be detrimental especially coming from one who is supposed to love and understand. Individuals are very skilful when it comes to relationships, especially if they feel the desire to shield themselves from such relationships. They do this in many ways such as isolating themselves, through silence or even breaking of the relationship (Cooper 2005). In fact they are capable of great self destruction in such circumstances. Ultimately, this is most harmful, particularly for their self steam and general wellbeing. This type of attitude is known as “self filling prophecy” and also the wish to destroy the other person (Cooper 2005). A positive sense of self emerges and evolves when developmental needs are met in an appropriate way. This is not without conflict as the child needs a secure bond with his/her parents while striving for autonomy. Parents can provide for their children lovingly whilst perusing their own life as well (Holmes 1996). Pathological relationships occur when the child feels rejected or disdained (Bowlby 1988). According to Holmes if parents cannot deal with problems among their children, the problem continues and the cycle reinforced (Holmes 1996). Winnicott (1990) suggests that children who experience parents who cannot deal with their own difficulties will end up with the same problems themselves. “Maternal and the parental” insecurity results in complications across generations (Holmes 1993). It has been well established that the early relationship with parents or care person impacts the development of a...
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