A qualitative exploration on the increased attention being paid to the psychotherapeutic relationship and understanding its role in the therapeutic process

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Fitzpatrick, Jonathan
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BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The importance of the therapeutic relationship has been a topic of discussion and debate since the dawn of the talking therapies. Over time, different ideas and understandings of the therapeutic relationship have emerged from different schools of Psychotherapies and even different therapists within the different schools. This research project set out to gain a better understanding of how the therapeutic relationship is viewed by today’s practitioners. Samples of 6 therapists were interviewed across the three main umbrella approaches. 2 are from the Humanistic approach, 2 are from Psychoanalysis approach and the last 2 are from the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approach. A literature review was initially undertaken to gather information already in the public domain on the subject of the therapeutic relationship. Following on from the literature review the research methods used were semi structured qualitative interviews. A thematic analysis was then performed on the information received. The findings were varied. The 3 approaches found the therapeutic relationship to be import but to different degrees. The Humanistic approach placed the relationship at the fore front of the therapy process and believed to be the catalyst for therapeutic change. They were however split on the idea of having an integrated definition of the 3 man umbrella approaches. This suggested a 50% margin in the acceptance of an integrated definition within the Humanistic approach. In the Psychoanalytic tradition it was found that the relationship was based around the unconscious transference and application of technique. The “real” elements of the relationship interactions such as the warm, undistorted, realistic, authentic, true, or the reality orientated aspects did not appear to exist. The Psychoanalysts understood the relationship to be important as far as technique or method was concerned. They outright rejected the idea of an integrated definition on the grounds that the theories and understandings of the relationship in Psychoanalysis are too different to the other approaches 7 | P a g e to reconcile. It was found that in the CBT approach the relationship was equally as important as theory, treatment or technique to affect therapeutic change. The CBT participants were divided, one for and one against, having an integrated definition of the therapeutic relationship. All but 1 of the participants had a little or a very basic understanding of the role the relationship has in the other traditions. This further highlighted the exclusiveness of each approach in modern times and years later from past attempts to reconcile the different understandings surrounding the role of the therapeutic relationship in each approach. Author keywords: Psychotherapeutic relationship