Critically Reflect on Forms of Relationship in The Therapeutic Encounter and The Challenges of Identifying and Working with These Relationship Processes

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Introduction

The relationship between the client and the counsellor is an elusive and mystical sometimes, debated frequently and is always a psychotherapy enterprise aspect that is interesting. Gelso & Carter (1985, p. 155-194) indicated that the global definition of relationship as all the behaviours, attitudes and feelings, conscious and unconscious that occur between two people, where one between them is a help-giver who has been sanctioned professionally, and the other is a patient or a client. However, given that the definition is broad, Gelso & Carter (1985, p. 155-194) proposed a narrower definition of relationship as the attitudes and feelings that counselling participants have toward each other and the manner in which these get expressed. In this narrower definition, the procedures and techniques applied by the therapist that are wedded to the theory from which he or she is operating may reflect the issues of relationship, but do not provide relationship definition. There exists six forms or modalities of relationship in a therapeutic setting, and they include; (1) working alliance, (2) transference-countertransference, (3) reparative/ developmentally deeded, (4) person-person, and (5) transpersonal modalities (Clarkson, 2014, p.113). In this essay, I am going to discuss the forms of relationship in the therapeutic encounter and the challenges of identifying and working with these relationship processes. Lastly, I will reflect on how I have experienced two of these forms/modalities in therapy drawn on my own experiences in illuminating these issues.

According to Clarkson (2014, pp. 8), all the six modes interlink and overlap.  Working alliance is the part of the therapist/client relationship enabling the therapist and the client to work together even when any of them do not wish to work together. The aspects of working alliance include the bond, goals, tasks, the ability of the client to form relationships, and significant early work stages. In transference-countertransference relationship, modality is the experience of working alliance distortion by the experiences, fears and wishes from the past carried over into the therapeutic relationship. This is also known as the therapist/client bias (Culley & Bond, 2011, p. 22).

On the other hand, reparative/ developmentally deeded relationship modality is the intentional provision by the therapist for replenishing, reparative or corrective relationship or action where the previous experiences or original parenting was overprotective or abusive or deficient. This relationship modality sometimes is known as a maturational response or corrective emotional experience (Clarkson, 2014, p. 13). This modality focuses on re-instating the healthy development process or repairing previous damage. This implies that the relationship aspects that were traumatic or have been absent for client at his childhood parts are repaired or supplied by the therapist. In essence, emphatic reflection’s person-centred responses are reparative.

In person-person (real) relationship modality is the core relationship or dialogic relationship that concerns the authentic humanness shared by the therapist and the client. This modality has also been referred to as the real therapeutic relationship dimension (Clarkson, 2014, p. 16). It is here and now an existential meeting between two individuals and requires mutual recognition and participation that each gets changed by the other. The real person of the therapist cannot be entirely being excluded from interactional therapy matrix. Moreover, this relationship modality does not involve changing the therapeutic relationship into a social relationship or trying to seek personal gratification by dialoguing with the client. However, it includes confirmation of client as deserving respect. Psychoanalysis recognises real relationship as significant deeply and potentially profound force of healing (Gilbert & Orlans, 2011, p.56).

Transpersonal relationship modality according to Clarkson (2014, p. 20) is the timeless psychotherapeutic relationship facet, that is impossible to describe but refers to the mysterious, spiritual or currently inexplicable dimension of the healing relationship. This relationship modality also acknowledges the influence of the qualities that presently transcend the limits of humans understanding. It is difficult to express it as its rare and is also not accessible easily to the descriptions that are used in discussing other relationship forms. Clarkson (2014, p. 22) also indicated that it lets go of skills, experience, knowledge, the desire to health, preconceptions to be present. It also allows receptiveness and passivity, hard to prepare and cannot be made to happen. It can only prepare conditions that are conducive to the spiritual activity. This relationship modality is also characterized by intuition to know facts, intent and feeling of the client without evidence to come to these conclusions. This relationship modality also flourishes more when the therapist dissolves their ego and allows insight and wisdom to emerge (Wallin, 2015, p.33).

 

1)    The Working Alliance

Gelso & Carter (1985, p. 155-194) suggested that working alliance is the alignment that takes place between the client and the counsellor, and more precisely, between the counsellor’s therapizing or working side and the client’s reasonable side (the reasonable or the observing ego). It is helpful at this point to think of two disparate ingredients or qualities of personality. One of these allows for objectivity and reason in observing situations and more so on the individuals. The second is the one which does not observe but instead experiences and feels unreflectively. This is referred to as a split in the ego by the psychoanalysts, and for expressive therapy or for successful analysis to occur, the client must have the ability for oscillating between these two sides. He or she must have the ability of rationally experiencing the feelings and observing those feelings.

In the working alliance, the reasonable side of the client aligns with the working side of the counsellor (which is also his or her reasonable side). This allows the client to experience negative feelings towards the counsellor without work disruption. Therefore, the reasonable side of the client, which gets aligned with the counsellor, permits the client to look at these negative feelings and try grasping their source. Also, it is the working alliance, and more importantly, that creates the sense that the counselling relationship participants are joined together in a shared enterprise, with each contributing to the work (Gelso & Carter, 1985, p. 155-194).

Bordin (1975, p. 252-260) conceptualized the working alliances as comprising of three parts: emotional bond existing between the participants, agreement on the task of the work, and an agreement about th.............


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