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julia tolley psychotherapist and counsellor, halesowen, west midlands
Relational Therapy in the West Midlands

Relational Therapy


In a relationship-oriented psychotherapy the psychotherapist's self is used in a directed, involved way to assist the client's process of developing and integrating full contact and the satisfaction of relational needs. Of central significance is the process of attunement, not just to discreet thoughts, feelings, behaviours or physical sensations, but also to what Stern terms 'vitality affects,' such that an experience of unbroken feeling-connectedness is created (1985, p. 156).

The client's sense of self and sense of relatedness that develop are crucial to the process of healing and growth, particularly when there have been specific traumas in the client's life and when aspects of the self have been disavowed or denied because of the cumulative failure of contact-in-relationship (Erskine, 1997).

Attunement goes beyond empathy: it is a process of communion and unity of interpersonal contact. It is a two-part process that begins with empathy-being sensitive to and identifying with the other person's sensations, needs or feelings; and includes the communication of that sensitivity to the other person. More than just understanding (Rogers, 195 1) Attunement also includes responding to relational needs as they emerge in the therapeutic relationship. Relational needs are the needs unique to interpersonal contact. They are not the basic needs of life such as food, air or proper temperature, but are the essential elements that enhance the quality of life and a sense of self-in-relationship.

Relational needs are the component parts of a universal human desire for relationship. Relational needs include the need to feel validated, affirmed and significant within a relationship. Acceptance by a stable, dependable and protective other person is an essential relational need.