At Us In Therapy we often talk about relational psychotherapy. You may have read or heard the term and wondered what it meant. Although it can change depending on the context, when we talk about “working relationally”, what we mean is focussing primarily on the here-and-now dynamic between therapist and client.
As relational therapy focuses on what happens in between people (sometimes called the intersubjective space) it offers a unique lens to think differently about ourselves. Rather than holding on to the notion that we are individuals that “need to work on ourselves” it instead believes that we all need good connections with others in order to feel good about ourselves. Individual power, agency and wellbeing are only achieved in the context of healthy interpersonal connections.
As more and more research affirms, effective therapy relies largely on the relationship between you and your therapist. A good therapeutic relationship should feel safe, empathic, robust, challenging and mutually respectful. In a sense, therapy can be seen as a microcosm of the outside world and unconscious relational patterns and dynamics will start to emerge in the therapy room. Your therapist will pay close attention to these and bring them into conscious awareness. It is through this awareness that we learn about ourselves and how we relate to others. Working through whatever arises in therapy gives opportunity to have a different relational experience.
The here and now relationship between therapist and client is also kept in mind and attended to as part of a relational approach. By understanding what goes on between “us” might be useful in understanding what goes on “out there” with “them.” Therefore, therapy offers the possibility to reflect on what forms us and to make room for the changes we hope for.