We are social beings and relationships are vital to us. If we are unhappy about how we relate to others it can have a very negative effect on our mental health and general well-being. Some therapies such as family therapy and couple therapy target our intimate relationships directly, whilst other psychotherapies help us to address the patterns we typically find ourselves repeating. Group therapy places us in a matrix of new relationships.
We usually have characteristic ways of managing intimate relationships and less close relationships with friends and colleagues. These characteristic patterns may have once seemed helpful in the context in which they arose but now restrict us and cause problems. Some people find that the feelings they have in close relationships are so changeable or anxiety provoking that they avoid relating or become very unstable when they do. Fears of being rejected or abandoned can be disabling.
Some people find joining in groups socially or professionally very stressful. They find they are prone to great anxiety about whether they will be included and ‘fit in’ or in contrast, whether they will be overwhelmed by others.
We need to be able to relate to others to work and to play, and to help us to bear the inevitable difficulties of living. Very few people find that they do not need to be close to others and do not miss having others to play with.
The different therapies we have mentioned offer different opportunities to explore our patterns in relationships. Cognitive Analytic Therapy has a focus on such patterns and psychodynamic / psychoanalytic psychotherapy brings new understanding of our relationships by bringing aspects of them alive in the therapeutic relationship. Attachment research has given modern psychotherapists a wealth of understanding about the way our internalised early relating to our care-givers has left us with ‘internal working models’ of relationships.
Some psychotherapies target our real-life relationships by directly including those close to us in the therapy, such as couple or family therapy. Although the three colleagues who form the Therapy Works alliance are not family therapists, we know local psychotherapists who are. Often distress in a child or infant is a symptom of family stress and of strained family relationships. We know good child psychotherapists as well.