Building Relationship Safety
Effective counselling is built upon a foundation of respect and safety. In a therapeutic relationship safety means that a client experiences ”feeling felt” or deeply understood, at the level of the body’s own intelligence. This allows for habitual defences to relax their hold so that we are more available to new learning.
This need for safety goes way back. As infants each of us was totally dependent upon the holding environment provided by our families of origin. As Infants we all had needs for safety, shelter, and nourishment, as well as needs for connection, and attunement from responsive caregivers.
Sometimes those needs were not fully met. parents can be busy and pre-occupied. There can be alcohol and abuse. The stress of making ends meet may have been the unspoken backdrop of family life. None of this is to blame parents, but to acknowledge the salient fact that as human beings often our hurts come out of relationship. Either things that should not have happened did (abuse, violence, shaming ), or things that should have happened did not ( support, encouragement, attention ).
The good news is that it is in relationship that these old scripts can be updated and revised. In counselling, the relational attunement between client and therapist becomes a foundation for, and an important aspect of, the healing process.
“The most powerful thing the therapist does for us is provide a setting, a nourishing womb, in which our lives can unfold. Through the physical setting and, most important, the setting of his own being, he creates a place of safety; a trustworthy place where all life is befriended through an affirmation of faith in our wisdom and creativity.”
—Gregory Johanson, Ph.D., Hakomi Institute Co-Founder