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The Therapeutic Relationship

When we find ourselves in a position where things just can't continue as they are, we might turn to therapy. The decision has been made and, after trawling through the numerous modalities and profiles, the therapist has been selected. You walk into the room for the first session and, committing to Britain's great knack of putting smalltalk to good use, fill the space with a well-meaning "how are you?" to the therapist. The therapist smiles, but says...nothing.

What on earth is going on in this moment?! Why, in every other corner of the country you would expect to get a response, but in this supposedly safe space, you are met with nothing but a smile. This is a very different type of relationship to one that you might be used to.

In most of our day-to-day relationships, there is a two-way traffic in communications. You would know details about each other enough to maintain this flow. However, in the therapeutic space, things are different because the space is one that is wholly dedicated to the client. The client needs to make use of the space as their own and by the therapist not responding to questions about him/herself, it is often the best way to encourage the client to do so.

In psychodynamic therapy, it is additionally important for the client to know as little as possible about the me. The reason being that I am making myself as blank a canvas to the client as I can so that I can receive unconscious projections from my clients. I am seeking to be affected by these projections in such a way that it assists me to gain an understanding of how my clients relate to others and the world. Essentially, the less known about me, the more my clients are likely to project onto me.

After the therapeutic relationship comes to an end, it can often feel strange to have shared so much with someone and then essentially, to walk away. You are then left with your own take on the experience, unaffected and unchangeable by anyone but yourself, unless of course you resumed sessions with that same therapist at a later date. But there is something to be gained from an independent reflection upon the process, without checking in or keeping the connection alive. It essentially becomes yours to take away.

Hannah Downing, Psychodynamic Therapist,


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