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What's therapeutic about the therapeutic relationship? A hypothesis for practice informed by Perceptual Control Theory

  • Timothy A. Carey (a1), Rebecca E. Kelly (a2), Warren Mansell (a2) and Sara J. Tai (a2)
Abstract

Evidence clearly suggests that the therapeutic relationship is important to successful outcomes in psychotherapy. It is less clear as to why this might be the case. Throughout the literature, various factors such as warmth, empathy, compassion, unconditional positive regard, and openness are identified as key. The way in which factors such as warmth and empathy bring about an amelioration of psychological distress, however, is not entirely obvious. We suggest that one possible mechanism through which these factors become important is by helping to create an environment where clients can examine their problems freely. Furthermore, we propose that when the therapeutic relationship is therapeutic, clients feel comfortable to consider whatever comes into their mind; with any filtering or evaluating happening after the ideas have been expressed, and not before. Psychological processes identified as maintaining psychological distress (e.g. thought suppression, avoidance, rumination) block this capacity. Our suggestion is that as internal experiences are being examined, the client has an opportunity to become aware of facets of the problem that were previously unattended to; and to continue this process outside therapy. Through this awareness-raising process the client's problem can be reorganized via intrinsic learning processes to achieve a more contented state of mind.

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Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence: Dr T. A. Carey, Centre for Remote Health, PO Box 4066, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia. (email: Tim.Carey@flinders.edu.au)
References
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the Cognitive Behaviour Therapist
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  • EISSN: 1754-470X
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