What is Relational Psychotherapy?
People need people. As social beings, we rely on and learn from other people throughout our lives. This is especially true as children, when we are literally dependent on our caregivers for survival. These figures shape our earliest understanding of how relationships work and feel.
Our relationships with other people play a large role in our own mental health. The ways in which we view the world around us and how we view ourselves are largely influenced by the behaviors of those in our lives. We make decisions about how to be close to others and get our needs met based on what we learn from those people. We use these experiences to create our relationship templates.
What is a Relationship Template?
Based on our early interactions, especially in our families, we come up with what I think of as a relationship template. A relationship template is a set of rules we figure out for getting our needs met as safely and thoroughly as possible. This template is usually very helpful when we are young, and often needs to be updated over time.
Your own template might have information in it like:
- People can be dangerous so I must be as small or quiet as possible.
- Others are too busy or distracted to meet my needs unless I make a big scene to get their attention.
- I do not deserve love unless I earn it by helping others first.
- People are out to control me and I must resist.
Sometimes it is difficult to know when these templates no longer apply. Even though our teenage and adult years involve new people and new kinds of relationships, we may still act or feel as if we are stuck in the past.
Naturally, these feelings don’t stop at the door when you come to see a therapist (just like they don’t stop at the door when you go home, to work, or spend the day with your friends). The relationship between you and me–therapist and client–can be used as a specific example of your relationship template. By bringing mindfulness to the therapy relationship, we get information about your very own relationship template.
The Therapy Relationship
Through the use of Relational Psychotherapy, I invite your relationship template to be a part of our work together. This means that all of your feelings and observations are welcome in our therapy, even the ones that are about us and the work we are doing. Relational Psychotherapy recognizes that the people and experiences that have shaped you will continue to influence you in the therapy relationship with me.
You may notice yourself having the same patterns of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors in counseling that you do elsewhere, and the good news is that you are in the perfect place to turn toward that automatic experience instead of away from it. I have extensive training and experience in helping people like you:
- slow down and identify their unique relationship templates
- understand the template origins and why it was helpful in the past
- assess which parts of the template are still useful and which have been outgrown
- experiment with new ways of being in relationship, sometimes using the therapy relationship for practice.
Of course, not everyone is interested in relational psychotherapy or finds it relevant to their current goals. Our use of relational work is based on your particular needs and style.
If you would like to learn more about relational psychotherapy or begin working with me to identify and change your relationship templates, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me today.