Interpersonal Process

Interpersonal (Relational) Process

The Interpersonal Process is a technique I employ when an individual presents with complaints about their inability to get along with a significant other. The “other” may be found in the current family unit, one’s family-of-origin, the work environment or among his social contacts. An individual is encouraged to explore his/her relationships with parents and/or siblings with the goal of gaining awareness of how one used one (or more) relational strategies to survive during the formative years. What is so profound about this type of therapy is that the client’s relationship with the therapist is conspicuously familiar to his behavior in the real world. The objective of the therapist is to provide a different emotional experience for the client than previously endured. In effect, it is the relationship with the therapist that becomes the agent for healing.
There are basically three types of relational patterns one adopts as a coping mechanism to alleviate the anxiety related to an unmet need. One of these styles becomes predominant over the rest. First, one can reduce anxiety by moving away, withdrawing from the other through either physical avoidance or self-sufficiency. The second strategy is the desire to move toward the other for the purpose of pleasing him/her. They reduce the threat of rejection by complying with the wants and needs of the other. Finally, the third strategy is a confrontative stance where interactions consist of bouts of anger toward the other. The person believes that by asserting themselves they are in control of themselves and others.
As mentioned before, the client brings his behavior from the real world into the room with the therapist. One’s interpersonal strategy is so deeply embedded within that there is little conscious thought-processing taking place. In addition, there is an expected emotional reaction from the other toward the client. This is exactly what the therapist desires because as an active participant in the interpersonal process, the therapist is there to provide a corrective emotional experience. The astute therapist will recognize the client’s pattern of behavior and the reactions of the previous players based on what the client has shared. The therapist will react in a manner that will help the client create a more satisfying relationship.
No one relational strategy is better than the other. A person pays a significant emotional price for maintaining a single coping style. The goal is to be able to have the ability to relate to others while still maintaining a sense of self. Do any of the three relational patterns call your name? Is this relational pattern wreaking havoc in your life? I want to hear your story. Let’s talk.  Click the button below to contact me.

Contact Neil Fieland, M.A., LMFT: Westlake Village Relationship Therapist | Calabasas, CA

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