Relationships are a big part of my work. Firstly, there is the establishing of a “therapeutic relationship” with my new client…where the client may check how solid the ground is between us before talking about their concern/issue. The pattern of previous relationships can be hugely influential in determining if one is able to trust and how far that
trust is extended. The working “contract” we share and the ethical framework I work to, may help to create a sense of safety and boundaries around this therapeutic alliance. During our work, this “relationship” constantly changes and develops. The counselling relationship is very different to other relationships in many ways…perhaps one of the most obvious ways is that from our first meeting we are both aware that at some future point our “relationship” will end. We don’t (usually) knowingly enter a relationship knowing it will end!
Of course much of our lives are concerned with relationships -friends, families, neighbours, the community, work colleagues, pets- the list could go on. So it seems that relationships working well are important to us practically (they help the day run smoothly, work is more pleasant when our team works well). How relationships positively impact on our psychological wellbeing (when they’re going well) is also well recognised. Perhaps the biggest part of my work is when relationships are not going so well, which includes the relationship we have with ourselves too.
Often tension is created when we have a different view to our partner (for example) about others we are in relationship with (the in-laws perhaps?!). This can create a rift between the two of you. Occasions like Christmas, anniversaries and birthdays, how long visitors may stay for can be particularly explosive. We can often argue about these things, however, it may be more productive to talk about these issue before they arise so that when/if the time comes, you and your partner have a pre-agreed plan in place. If you each express how you feel then a middle way may be found that you’re both happy with. It might include how you would manage a parent moving closer to you/or needing to move in; how long visitors may stay with you for; is it OK to loan money to a family member; doing Christmas differently; how much screen time is acceptable for the children; whether the dog is allowed to sleep on the bed. Couples or individual counselling are also useful places to work out these ideas.