Relationships can be a source of happiness and healing for us all. But often, they can be a place of great pain, distress, misunderstanding and heartache. In intimate relationships with a life-partner, but also in relationships with friends, colleagues, parents, children, neighbours or anyone, many people find that they are having more difficulty and pain, and less love and connection, than they would like.
My primary approach in supporting clients with relationship difficulties, either individually or with the other person, is informed by the Hakomi Embodied and Aware Relationships Training (H.E.A.R.T.) model, created by Hakomi Trainer and Founder Halko Weiss. Much research supports the fact that when two people have a problem between them, it is not the problem itself that is the problem, it is the states that the two people get into when engaging with the problem that is the issue. So when I work with a couple or interpersonal situation, I support my clients to use mindfulness and tracking their own bodies to become aware of their own state, the part of themselves that is active at the time. Doing this helps each person to engage with the other and the problem at hand differently.
Much of our interpersonal difficulties comes from not really understanding the other person. When I see a couple, most of the time each person is very strongly invested in being understood and having their own perspective on the situation seen, both by me and their partner. There is often little space available for really listening or understanding the other. So my focus with two people is to make sure I fully understand and empathise with each of them in turn, and then to gently help each person to start truly listening to the other and understanding their world. When we are able to do this more reliably, the two people can become more compassionate towards each other. My experience is that this way of working supports deeper connection and understanding, and as a result, the love between two people grows.
In working with relationship issues, I am also informed by my training in Stan Tatkin’s Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT). Our early childhood experience of being loved and supported has a big impact on how we do relationships later in life. The way we are parented results in us having a particular attachment style, which informs how we respond to others in times of stress and threat. Knowing your own and the other’s attachment style can help enormously to develop understanding of why each person is doing things the way they are, and what they are ultimately needing, which brings people to deeper connection.
Internal Family Systems Therapy by Richard Schwartz
Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner's Brain Can Help You Defuse Conflicts and Spark Intimacy by Stan Tatkin
Your Brain on Love: The Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships (CDs) by Stan Tatkin
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert by John Gottman and Nan Silver