Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Power of Relationship

"It is the relationship that heals" - Irvin Yalom

I'm rereading one of my old counselling texts, Irvin Yalom's "Love's Executioner." Its a collection of short stories, case studies of Yalom's interaction with his clients. I really enjoy tales from therapy. Reading a famous counselor's recollections of notable real life therapy is not just highly entertaining but instructive as well. In other words I learn alot and am reminded about a lot. And it feels good to hear that even master therapists don't always know what they are doing!

Yalom is an existential therapist. Existential therapy focuses on helping people deal with meaning , loneliness, death anxiety, purpose, being, and freedom. This isn't my main focus of counselling, but nonetheless I was struck with love his emphasis on relationship. To Yalom there is no helping without relationship. Every part of the counselling process hinges on the ability of the counselor and client to be able to connect. How is this connection facilitated? By client and counselor being available to each other; honest, authentic, real, vulnerable, caring, etc. A client must feel accepted, supported, and valued. This gives the relationship what it must have - meaning. If it doesn't therapy will certainly fail. Brilliant interpretations, homework, solutions, etc are never the most important part of helping someone. The client must first have the foundation of a good relationship before anything else meaningful can happen. Once a person is in a strong relationship with someone, then (and only then) can they truly be helped (or just as likely heal themselves). In this way it is true as Yalom says "It is the relationship that heals."

The take-away for anyone not in the counseling field is that relationships are key to everything. Want to motivate someone? You need relationship. Want to confront them? Again relationship. Want to help them with their problems? You must have a connection with them - and they with you. So stop trying to just focus on fixing people's problems. Instead, why not focus on a strong relationship with that person?

Thanks for the reminder Professor Yalom.


Lindsey Dueck said...

Where did you get that picture from? It is the EXACT same pictures as one of the preloaded pics in my BlackBerry! LOL

Mark said...

Um, google images I think?