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Michael is a TRS (The Relational School) member and has drawn from Martha Stark’s seminal 1999 book 'Modes of Therapeutic Action’, Lavinia Gomez’s work on object relations and the tension between humanistic and psychoanalytic traditions as well as Petruska Clarkson’s 5 modalities of therapeutic relating to develop a broad-spectrum integration of therapeutic traditions as part of the relational project. For this study day Michael will present and explore with us his particular journey since his own experience of a ‘relational turn’ in the mid-1990’s.
What do we mean by ‘relational’?
Over the last 15 years or so, relational perspectives have had a significant impact across the fields of psychotherapy. However, the wider its increasing influence has spread, the less clear it has become what we actually mean by ‘relational’. The default common denominator would be the recognition that in therapy it's the relationship between client and therapist that matters, and that the quality of that relationship is a significant indicator of outcome.
However, whilst there is quite a lot of agreement that the therapeutic relationship matters, this apparent consensus breaks down at the first hurdle: there is no such level of agreement as to what actually constitutes quality of relationship. On the contrary: there is a tendency for the traditional approaches to define ‘therapeutic relating’ predominantly within their own frame of reference, taking their own paradigm of relating for granted. It is, therefore, not generally accepted that 100 years of psychotherapy have given us a diversity of distinct notions of what kind of relating is to be considered ‘therapeutic’. The common ground of ‘relationality’ is a negative distinction from classical one-person psychology and ‘medical model’ non-relationality, but beyond that it is unclear whether relating means in Gomez’s terms being ‘alongside’ as an ally or ‘opposite’ as a relational other. And then what kind of other: positive, nurturing and reparative or authentic/dialogical or transferential other? And in amongst all that, what happens with the ‘bad’ object, and who relates to it how?
A multiplicity of diverse, contradictory and complementary relational spaces.
Unless we take into account these different and contradictory notions of relatedness - or in the terms of Petruska Clarkson’s seminal contribution from the early 1990's: the different relational modalities we now find in existence across the field - what we mean by ‘relational’ will remain confused and confusing. It clearly means very different things to different therapists, without - however - these differences being sufficiently acknowledged or investigated.
Michael’s starting point will be the polarisation between object-relating and inter(subject)-relating: when we validate both and recognise the tension between them as essential to the therapeutic endeavor (a tension not to be reduced, resolved or short-circuited ideologically, but to be entered into in each unique client-therapist relationship), a multiplicity of relational spaces – contradictory and complementary, forming a complex dynamic whole – can be seen to arise from it. Michael proposes his ‘diamond model’ as a map that can help therapists process their conflicted (countertransference) experience when involved in layers of multiple enactment.