Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Relational Turn in Person-Centred and Experiential Psychotherapies

Entry for 16 October 2006:

Relational Depth is a big thing here in the Counselling Unit. Dave Mearns has been working on the topic for several years and he and Mick Cooper recently published a book on the topic. This seems to be one of those zeitgeist things, because suddenly it seems like almost everyone in the Person-Centred/Experiential (PCE) therapy field is talking about related relational phenomena. One of the main differences between Facilitating Emotional Change (1993) and Learning Emotion-Focused Therapy is that we have expanded our coverage of interpersonal tasks, including Alliance Repair and also formulations of Alliance Formation and even therapy termination as therapeutic tasks.

However, others are pushing this even further:
1. Brian Thorne and others have been writing about therapeutic presence for several years. Following this line, Sherri Geller and Les Greenberg have published on the therapist’s experience of being Presence with clients.
2. My fellow journal editor, Peter F. Schmid, has been writing about dialogical/ interactional approaches in PCE therapy, providing a philosophy and even spiritual basis for this movement.
3. The Leuven group, now led by Mia Leijssen, have developed a strong focus on research on interpersonal elements in PCE, including meta-communication (Monica Gundrum, continuing work begun by Dieter Hendrickx), psychological contact between client and therapist (Mathias Dekeyser), relational work (Germain Lietaer), and transparency/genuineness/alliance formation (Jutta Schnellbacher).
4. And of course at Strathclyde we have Relational Depth (RD), which now has an active research group around Mick Cooper studying various aspects of it, including qualitative research on the client’s experience (Rosanne Pearce) and the development of client and therapist questionnaires to measure it (Susan Wiggins). There are others, but these are the two projects that I am helping supervise.

An immediate consequence of this is that Mick is now pushing me to including some new interpersonal (he calls them inter-experiential) tasks in the PC/E protocol we are developing for working with clients with social anxiety difficulties, and he has begun actively working on this. An interpersonal focus seems particularly appropriate for this particular problem, which involves disrupted sociality as a core difficulty.

In any case, relational work and phenomena appear to be getting a new look both here and in PCE therapy in general. I think it’s a trend! Actually, it’s part of a large trend in the field, which is also manifest in the emergence of interactional/interpersonal approaches in general, including people like Len Horowitz at Stanford, Tim Anderson (Ohio University), Lorna Benjamin (U of Utah), and many, many others. This all feeds into family and couples work also, the best-developed example of which in the PC/E field is Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg’s Emotion-Focused Therapy for couples (EFT-C).

There’s a lot cooking in all this, and it’s difficult to bring it all together, but I do think that it is a very promising development.. and I think it’s high time that we looked again in new ways at the core phenomena of the Person-Centred Approach!

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