First Draft Introduction on my book Holding Space: Dynamics of Therapeutic Relationships


"It may be that I have to answer all at once, to this very man before me; it may be that the saying has a long and manifold transmission before it, and that I am to answer some other person at some other time and place, in who knows what kind of speech, and that it is now only a matter of taking the answering on myself. But in each instance a word demanding an answer has happened to me. We may term this way of perception becoming aware.

It by no means need to be a man of whom I become aware. It can be an animal, a plant, a stone. No kind of appearance or event is fundamentally excluded from the series of things through which from time to time something is said to me. Nothing can refuse to be the vessel for the Word. The limits of the possibility of dialogue are the limits of awareness." - Martin Buber


Experiences are possible through a being’s ability to relate to someone or something else. Even if a being is devoid of normal sensation movements within itself still occur in relation to other forces. As human beings we have the potential to perceive a variety of relations we have with the world and as social animals we have the potential to perceive a variety of relations we have with other beings. There are all kind of relationships we grow to become aware of; our relation to our family, our relation to our lovers, our relation to our careers, our relation to our bodies, and so on. In any specific relationship within those types there are still more levels of awareness and perception which go to deepen the relationship, making the experience of it even more than a simple relation such as the I - It relation Buber presented in the early 20th century. In many contexts, whether it be within a church, a clinic, or a classroom we find greater value and more fulfillment from a more balanced relationship to the others in the relation by relating to them with no mediation. Maintaining our sense of I but letting go our sense of It opens up possibility to perceive more than what can be first perceived through the lense of sensation colored by factors dependent on individual and changeable qualities such as status of health, beliefs, and current mood. When we let go of those influences we reveal the capacity to have an unmediated and direct relation to the other. Thus we tap into an ability to listen and respond to other more clearly. When we exist in a relation with this sort of openness towards the other in any relation it can be beneficial to developing greater span in the ways we relate and also a greater understanding in how we relate as artists relating to their mediums. Professionals in any art or field of study seem more successful the greater their capacity is to listen and adapt to subjects in their fields. This capacity can come from an awareness of different ways in which they may relate to the other person, object, or subject. The power of existing and relating to others in an I -Thou way can’t be any more apparent than in the therapeutic relationship.

Therapeutic Relationships

Therapeutic relationships describe the relationships between health care professionals and the people seeking treatment. The therapists relate to clients in a very basic way. Therapists work to improve the health and well-being of the others and that is all that is required for the people within the relationship to be considered therapists and clients. Yet the potential range of this relationship can grow or be completely overlooked by the people involved. Ignorance of the relationship’s span could be due to the subjects understanding of their roles in the relation. These limits shaped by roles may be determined by a variety of factors including cultural background, educational training, personal values, and religious beliefs. If the subjects rely primarily on these things in order to fulfill positions within a therapeutic relationship then they limit the possibilities of that relationship to those more personal considerations with limited or minimal correlation to the others involved. For personal relationships such as those between partners and lovers this may be a better way to go about finding an appropriate and mutually beneficial pairing since relationships of that type require appreciation of someone’s personal qualities; the most passionate lovers share a certain fandom of the other. The type of relationship which is the focus of this book also appreciates qualities making up a colorful individual but they are seen as supplementary to the relationship between therapist and client. However, they often become the primary means through which either party evaluates the quality of the relationship. Their ability to connect with personal values become more important than their ability to improve health and vitality. When clients and therapists are able to hang up their egos they then open up room for alternative lenses through which to view their own health and they’re capable of experiencing new levels of awareness. This book aims to support the practice of coming into therapeutic relationships with such openness. In order to do this it first ask the reader to consider fundamental qualities making up clients and therapists. It’ll respond to questions such as: Who is a client? Who is a therapist? What makes a client, a client, and what makes a therapist, a therapist, in the relationship? Note that the terms client and therapist are used in a global sense of the words within the world of healthcare. They aim to apply to any therapeutic relationship but the understanding stems mainly from the author’s experience working in manual therapy. Secondly the author will attempt to shine more light on the dynamics between client and therapist during a term of care.

Even though this exploration begins with the fundamental qualities of and connections between both therapists and clients this book is primarily intended for healthcare professionals. Without the specific modalities in which clients seek help there’d be no way to distinguish a relationship as therapeutic since all relationships have the potential to be healing. Furthermore without the practitioners within those modalities there’d be no way for the client to be truly seen, heard, and responded to within its scope. It is the hopes that by laying out fundamental qualities of clients, therapists, and their interactions the remaining sections concerning more of the therapist role will follow naturally; particularly on the unique ways in which therapists make contact, how they manage different forms of transference, and how they create a safe and healing environment for the client as well as themselves.

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