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Notes for Intimacy and Love in Therapy

Notes for Workshop: Intimacy and Love in Therapy

Notes for Workshop Intimacy and Love in Therapy Nov2017
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Experiencing love and intimacy

I love to boogie on a Saturday night, I love that song! ….I love my children so much … I love my work too

In Pairs: Explore your own usage and experience of love

Consider your experiences of love in its many forms.

What differentiates these forms of love

Might love exist in therapy, if so, what form is this?


Continue, together and explore what this means for you.


What Function Does Therapy Have?

  • the idea of making conscious what is not conscious has generally remained the central core of all psychotherapies.

  • in the final analysis the aim of psychotherapy remains for them that of making “sayable” what is “unsayable”.

  • Some new techniques used in psychotherapy, for instance, can be said, on the one hand, to have challenged the concept that the client needs to say and understand the experience.

  • Daniel Stern (Stern et al., 1998b) states that the implicit relational knowledge is what is truly responsible for much therapeutic change, and many psychotherapists have been debating this topic.

  • the patient does not need an understanding of symptoms to get better.

  • implicit relational knowledge is defined as non-verbal, not conscious but not repressed (Stern et al., 1998b)[1] (Spagnuolo Lobb, et al., 2014, pp. loc 2506-2515)

[1] Stern D.N., Bruschweiler-Stern, N., Harrison, A., Lyons-Ruth, K., Morgan, A., Nahum, J., Sander, L. and Tronick, E. (1998b). The Process of Therapeutic Change Involving Implicit Knowledge: Some Implications of Developmental Observations for Adult Psychotherapy. Infant Mental Health J. 3, 300-308.


Concerned with Humanness

  • With the development of the “third force” in psychology, which concerns itself with man in his humanness rather than as defined in psycho analytic or behavioristic terms, Freud’s famous statement, “Much has been accomplished if we can change neurotic misery into common unhappiness,” is no longer sufficient. Now we use words such as enhancement, intimacy, actualization, creativity, ecstasy, and transcendence to describe what we wish for ourselves and others.

  • there are values in living that persons know from their own experiences or from their observations of others to be valuable and enhancing; spontaneity, sensory awareness, freedom of movement, emotional responsiveness and expressiveness, enjoyment, ease, flexibility in relating, direct contact and emotional closeness with others, intimacy, competency, immediacy and presence. self-support, and creativity. (Shepherd, et al., 1970, pp. loc 176-181)


Relational and Intimacy word usage

Google Ngram image for Relational and Intimacy word usage

Occurrences in Google Books: Relational [ ] and Intimacy [ ]


Relational Needs

  • Security

  • Valuing

  • Acceptance

  • Mutuality

  • Self-Definition

  • Making an Impact

  • Having The Other Initiate

  • To Express Love

(Erskine, et al., 1999)


To Express Love

  • Expressing these feelings is a relational need;

  • A therapy of contact-in-relationship creates one of the closest and most intimate of all human connections, and it is almost inevitable that the client will experience strong feelings toward the therapist.

  • All too often, therapists discourage clients’ expression of such feelings by labeling them all as transference or as a sign that the client is becoming too dependent or too infantilized or is trying to manipulate the relationship.

  • One of the reasons why many therapists have difficulty when clients express their positive feelings is that we do not know what to say in return.

  • Rather than assuming that an expression of gratitude, a loving gesture, or an affectionate word must be a sign of some hidden agenda on the part of a client, at least until proven otherwise, we believe it is better to assume the opposite. We should take that expression at face value unless and until we have reason to interpret it in some other way.

  • it is entirely appropriate that the therapist feel pleased when a client expresses positive feelings toward him or her. The therapist’s feelings of pleasure may not need to be stated directly (the client’s feelings are the figure; the therapist’s are the background).

  • As clients begin to re-own the denied and dissociated parts of themselves, they are likely to recover the ability to feel more intensely.

  • A client who is recovering the ability to feel emotions will have a strong need to express them. The expression of such feelings is not only transference. The feelings are genuinely and appropriately directed toward the therapist and are not leftovers from some earlier, unfinished relationship. But they must be understood in the context of the client’s process of integration. Within the therapeutic relationship, at this point in its development, they are strong, and spontaneous; later, as reintegration becomes more complete, they will mature into a more adult-appropriate form of caring and affection.

(Erskine, et al., 1999, pp. 148-149)


Intimate Relationships

As humanistic counsellors we seek to foster ‘intimate’ relationships with our clients because we believe that that is the vehicle that can enable therapeutic change for our clients. ‘Confidentiality, and therefore privacy, is an implicit part of the encounter, as is a level of intimacy that sometimes reaches, if not exceeds, that of parent and child or husband and wife. We are privy to the secrets the client is barely willing to share with himself.’ (Kottler, 1993, p. 3)


Love in Relationships

Strictly Dancing and the curse

Is it strictly dancing or is an entertainment show with a dancing theme?

  • Judge Rinder of the television series of the same name spoke of the intimacy of the Strictly experience,

  • “…[it is] about how the best teachers have an ability to read your mind, and give you the impression that they completely understand you. That is such an intimate thing that you can see how relationships do develop.” (Wheeler, 2016))

collage image of Strictly Come Dancing Relationships


Trust and Intimate Truth

a bond of trust poetry image


Strictly Intimate and Strictly Therapy

  • Intimacy is closeness and familiarity of trust and sharing with affection and companionship.

  • There are boundaries we are asked to adhere to through our professional ethics.. Despite any code of conduct or professional ethic we, ultimately, are each responsible for how we might decide where and when and how a boundary might apply; or not. We each need to embrace not so much the role of our ethical and professional codes but rather the function of these codes.

  • The function of our ethical code is support the client in their endeavour grow. In Strictly Come Dancing terms it is to teach them to dance and then let them go. Our task is to be redundant to the client.



  • Erskine, R., Moursund, J. & Trautmann, R., 1999. Beyond Empathy: A Therapy of Contact-in Relationships. Kindle ed. London: Routledge.

  • Kottler, J. A., 1993. On Being A Therapist. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

  • Shepherd, I. L., Fagan, J. & Gaffney, S., 1970. Gestalt Therapy Now. Kindle Android Version 2013 ed.

  • Spagnuolo Lobb, M., Orange, D. & Migone, P., 2014. The Now-for-Next in Psychotherapy: Gestalt Therapy Recounted in Post-Modern Society. 1 ed. Siracusa: Istituto di Gestalt HCC Italy.

  • Wheeler, O., 2016. Judge Rinder gives his theory on the Strictly Come Dancing 'curse'. [Online] Available at: 20349/judge-rinder-gives-his-theory-on-the-strictly-come-dancing-curse [Accessed 26 January 2017].

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