The purpose of this study is to provide a social constructionist perspective on the therapeutic relationship. This is to aid a broader conceptualisation and understanding of this important therapeutic concept. To attain this, multiple truths or theories regarding the therapeutic relationship are explored. Additionally, a possible different conceptualisation of a therapeutic relationship between three participants and myself as the researcher is set out using social constructionist epistemology. This includes an investigation of the researcher as an important constructer of the study, and the co-creative nature of the therapeutic relationship. The subjective nature of the research is continually emphasised throughout the dissertation. Given the social constructionist approach to this dissertation, context plays a vital role. Therefore an exploration of the social constructionist epistemology in general, psychology and psychotherapy is set out, as these form the backdrop of the study. This is followed by a look at the importance of the therapeutic relationship in psychotherapy, as well as the different contributions six broad theoretical orientations have made to the understanding of the therapeutic relationship. The importance of context is also reflected in the research design. A qualitative approach is taken, using case study methodology. Observation, field notes and unstructured interviews were used to gather the information from the participants and researcher, and the information was analysed using thematic analysis. The results are set out in the form of themes generated using the thematic analysis. The importance and development of a connection between therapist and client is explored. This includes a discussion on the role of knowledge, influence, trust in the client, and a not-knowing attitude in the process of development of a connection. The therapeutic relationship’s empowerment perspective and aim is shown. This perspective highlights the flow of power in the therapeutic relationship between therapist and client. The context of helping and the professional nature of the relationship are also discussed. These themes are grouped together under one encompassing theme, namely that of difference. It is indicated that, in general, the therapeutic relationship is one of difference. In conclusion, the contributions of this study are highlighted. These include the re-emphasis on the importance of the therapeutic relationship as a central construct in psychotherapeutic intervention.
Dissertation (MA (Clinical Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2005.