Relationship therapy was the name coined a half-century ago by John Levy (1938) to a process in which the focus of treatment was organized around the patient-therapist relationship. While accepting projection into the relationship of many attitudes and feelings related to the past, interpretations were made in terms of feelings experienced in the present, F. H. Allen (1934) also delineated a system of relationship psychotherapy with children that acted as a positive growth experience, releasing forces that make for more complete development. The innovative work of Taft (1933) on the relationship aspects of casework may during this epoch be considered in this category.
What to expect?
As it is implied by the name “relationship therapy”, the relationship is the catalyst that both promotes change and serves as a target for an inquiry into basic interpersonal patterns. The therapeutic encounter offers the patient a new experience with a human being, which permits full expression of needs and strivings without retaliatory injury or rejection. The awareness gained by the client in this unique setting helps them to readapt to their situations and achieve some of their potentials. Actually, what has been recognized as relationship therapy has been accepted as constituting a vital aspect of all therapies.
How does it work?
The process involves development complete transference on the part of the patient, which occurs after initial rapport formation between the client and the therapist. The method of relationship therapy is embodied, without labeling it as such, in many counseling, educational, and behavioral approaches in which the therapist adopts or take up the stance of a non-punitive, helpful authority figure guiding the patient toward a more productive way of life. It can be helpful and educative in developmental and other crises. Whether it is effective enough to replace a punitive parental introject with a more tolerant figure and thus lessen hostility and guilt is difficult to say, but over a long-term period one may anticipate a softening of a harsh superego if countertransference is kept at a check while the patient doggedly and sometimes brutally tests the sincerity of the therapist.
Attitude therapy is often used along with relationship therapy. The term attitude therapy was used originally by David Levy, describes a process of treating children by working with the disturbed attitudes of their parents. Distortions in attitudes are examined and segregated, their origins are discussed, and their present purpose appraised. Following this, attitudes that make for harmonious relationships are introduced as topics for discussion, and the patient is assisted to incorporate these as substitutes for morbid habitudes. The core attitudes, when once identified, are neutralized by presenting opposite healthy sentiments to promote a reorganization of attitudinal constellations. Because the patient will not yield old ways of thinking readily, repeated emphasis on a new point of view is essential to achieve desired results.
When is it used?
It is usually employed by the therapist to enhance the personal relationships of the client. The client by the end of the therapy experiences positive self growth, attempts to invest and hence make most of their personal relationships which not only ensures proper functioning but also enhances a positive growth toward a complete well being.
Role of therapist:
In “relationship therapy” the therapist tries to provide a corrective emotional experience for the patient by absorbing the patient’s neurotic behavior and not responding to it with expected anger or indignation. Instead, a noncritical interpretation of the behavior is sometimes offered, with suggestions of an alternative style for handling oneself. Sometimes the therapist might model an effective and constructive way of managing the environmental provocations that beset the patient.