Healing Relationships are deeply compassionate, respectful, and personally valuing by their very nature. They allow a true appreciation of the person's unique intrinsic qualities to be seen. Whether the focus of treatment is on developing effective Communication and Intimacy in Couples Therapy, supporting healthy balanced nurturing roles in Family Counseling, or facilitating positive adjustment in Life Role Transitions through Grief, Loss, and Trauma Resolution, relationship is key. Relationship is what allows us to come to terms with, and integrate what has been overwhelming. It opens a path for balance and resolution of exaggerated defensive patterns, habits, and symptoms.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive to come towards, be with, and relate to what seems to be the "source" of our fear, pain, and suffering, clinical expertise in Pain Management and Cognitive Behavioral treatment for Anxiety Disorders continues to support this strategy (Stephen Levine, A Gradual Awakening, 1979, Who Dies, 1982, David Burns, When Panic Attacks, 2006, Peter Levine, Freedom from Pain, 2012). If we know that pain triggers fear in the primitive survival brain, it can be noticed compassionately, and becomes much more workable.
I rely on Mindfulness Based practices with Individual Therapy, Couples Counseling, and Family Therapy, as this allows a healing spirit of compassion and kindness to support the “mechanics” of what we know contributes to the cultivation of satisfying relationships. I am certainly one of many grateful contemporary Marriage & Family Therapists who utilize the powerful tools made available in the wake of brilliant clinical experience and research over the last several decades. David Burns (1991) has given us “The Five Secrets of Effective Communication”. Susan Heitler (1990) developed a wonderfully valuing, inclusive “win – win” model for working with highly conflicted Couples. Harville Hendrix (1992) provides a list of concise exercises for Getting The Love You Want beginning with the practice of "mirroring" to heal our childhood wounds. And John Gottman (1999) published the fruits of his twenty year relationship studies in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
We are benefactors of various rich healing traditions which encourage a compassionate approach and opening of dialogue with the multiple facets of our intrapersonal and interpersonal experience. These may be traced to ancient roots in both eastern and western cultures. Modern contributors include Carl Jung’s "Active Imagining" and Archetypal Psychology, Gestalt Therapy, Carl Rogers' "person centering" principles of "mirroring" and "unconditional positive regard", Internal Family Systems Therapy (Schwartz, 1995), and The Structural Dissociation Model of Treatment for Chronic Trauma (Van Der Hart, Nijenhuis, & Steele, 2006). Mindfulness Based approaches such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (Linehan, 1993), EMDR Therapy (Shapiro, 1998), and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (Ogden, 2006, Trauma and the Body) utilize this same premise of cultivating present compassionate interactive relationships to resolve the defensive patterns of avoidance, projection, or dissociation from our identified sources of distress and discomfort.
“Our suffering is us, and we need to treat it with nonviolence”. "We hold our anger in our two arms like a mother holding her crying baby". "Our mindfulness embraces our emotion, and this alone can calm our anger and ourselves." "When we are calm enough we can look deeply to understand what has brought this anger to be; what is causing our baby's discomfort"... (1999, Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching).
Michael Thaden, MS
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist