I was speaking recently with one of my patients. They were describing their relationship with their parents in sad tones. “What about this relationship here?” I asked. “What do you mean?” they responded.
“Well, there’s a relationship here between you and me” I ventured.
“No there’s not. This isn’t a relationship. Relationships are about love and care and things. You’re my counsellor. There isn’t a relationship.”
I was tempted to launch into a lecture about the Presenting Past and its relationship to Transference and Projective Identification- but thought this probably wouldn’t help the work. So I asked instead how they did see the “relationship” between us. My patient wasn’t sure. I suggested that they saw me as a psychological “Speak your weight machine.” They put in a question or a problem and out comes an answer, with no sense that I might be touched by their question. Or curious. Or puzzled.Their is no therapeutic work without a relationship between the therapist and the patient. The nature of that relationship is always deeply informative and at the core of how I work.
The truth is that all my patients are in a relationship with me. They have found out my details, looked at my website, possibly read my blogs and , finally, met me. By which time they already have a fantasy about me and how we will work together. The relationship starts a long time before they come to me. This relationship will mirror all other relationships. Sometimes my patients ask about my health. I usually reply that I’m fine. Others come in and want to check out that I still like them. Then they can allow themselves to begin. Some come in a sit down quietly in their chair whilst others come in, lean forward and launch into a tirade against their family, their boss, their work, their life. One of my many tasks is to try and understand what’s happening today and what it might represent for both my patient and myself.
The roots of the word “relationship” have the sense of a bringing back, restoring, association. All things that can be done alone but which make more sense when done with another person. (Which is why I dislike the idea of computerised “counselling”. It is at best a misnomer, at worst dangerous.This truly is “speak your weight” therapy. Input your problem now and the program will search its files for an answer that seems closest to your question. Please speak Now.I can imagine nothing further from the spirit of Freud, Jung and company. One does not have a relationship with a computer program.)