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Building Strong Relationships in Counselling & Coaching

Humans are social creatures; our brains are wried for connection, attunement, interaction and coordination. Relationships science shows how our brains have evolved sophisticated mechanisms for co-regulation and working together to survive and adapt as a species across history.

As science uncovers deeper knowledge about our brains we can begin to understand why relationships are so important to us. We can also become more effective in understanding how to repair and recover when we experience relationship injuries and relationship trauma. When we become conscience of our own relationships and desire more connection we can refer to relationship science to understand how we might go about developing stronger relationships.

Relationships attachment as modelled by the founder of Attachment Theory, John Bowlby explains a spectrum of how we relate. This approach informs how we might intentionally develop our relationships and continue to grow our minds and bodies in a way that helps us connect meaningfully. In good enough relationships we aim to develop secure attachment for learning, development and wellbeing; this forms the basis of a good therapeutic relationship, parenting, coaching and even teaching.

A lot of coaching and counselling work involves relationship conversations and personally I've done a lot of inner work through mindfulness and other reflective processes on my own sense of relationship connection. Some people might even say mindfulness is all about your relationship with yourself, others and life as a whole and I agree but it doesn't stop with the self. I think we can all relate to meaningful relationships being the most important thing in the human experience and something we all have in common is our need for social inclusivity and connection.

Many clients come to me with some kind of relationship trauma, perhaps years of adverse experience in relationships, heartbreak from failed relationships, grief and loss, childhood wounds from parents, conflict and bullying in the workplace that has left scars or breakdowns in intimate relationships and a general sense of disconnection that has perpetuated with the rise of smart phones, and during lockdown and the pandemic. No one ever said being a human and having relationships was easy street.

When I ask my clients what does a nourishing and secure relationship look like to you, it can take some time to really get clear. So drawing from the science let's start to have a look at some of the ways we can begin to develop a secure relationship and what are some of the conditions that promote secure attachments are. Perhaps take one or two and spend some time writing and exploring ways you can put some time and energy into these areas.

  • Being able to feel safe in your relationship.

  • Being able to feel seen and known in your relationship.

  • Being able to regulate emotions together in relationship. this often called co-regulation.

  • Being able to open up, bond and trust one another.

  • Being able to communicate your needs effectively.

  • Being able to feel comforted, soothed and close in your relationship.

  • Being comfortable being alone and having your own individual goals.

  • Being able to reflect on how you're being in relationship.

  • Being able to give and seek emotional support in your relationship.

  • Being able to feel valued in your relationship.

  • Being able to feel supported to explore, grow and develop in your relationship.

  • Being able to acknowledge mistakes and do the repair work in your relationship

  • being able to act quickly on mistakes to minimise long-term harm

  • Being able to invest time regularly in creating relationship connection

  • Being able to balance criticism and feedback with healthy doses of praise

If you're struggling with a relationship or in need of more support navigating difficult relationships don't hesitate to reach out. I don't do couples therapy but I'm available two days for individual private practice work and offer retreats and workshops for individuals and couples can attend. I also have many professional contacts I can refer you to who are also doing skilful work in the relationship space.


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