Counselling Blog

Introduction: Building healthy and meaningful relationships is of utmost importance in counselling. This article explores the significance of these relationships through theoretical lenses. By examining the characteristics of healthy relationships, we can understand why it is essential for counselling professionals to consider this question.

The Value of a Healthy, Meaningful Relationship: Research demonstrates the importance of establishing a meaningful bond at the beginning of a therapeutic relationship (Stupp, 1980, cited in Clarkson, 1995, p.6). According to Clarkson (1995), in counselling, there is a need for a working alliance that sets boundaries, establishes contracts, and addresses confidentiality, time, and fees. While these aspects may not need to be explicitly discussed in personal relationships, they still exist. Unspoken agreements and understandings naturally evolve within healthy friendships.

Conversely, clearly defining the contractual aspects for both parties involved is crucial in the therapeutic relationship. Different types of therapeutic relationships can be observed in counselling, including the person-to-person relationship, where emotional connection plays a significant role. This type of relationship fosters meaningful connections and understanding. Judgment is minimized, and individuals serve as sounding boards for each other, facilitating decision-making rather than providing direct advice.

Defining a Healthy Relationship: A healthy relationship does not imply perfection but signifies a "good enough" relationship. Drawing from Donald Winnicott's concept of a "good enough mother" (1953, cited in McLeod, 2009, p.83), this type of relationship involves appropriate attunement. The caregiver responds promptly without being overprotective or neglectful. Over time, the individual can develop their "true self" through relative independence. A healthy relationship embraces differences and respects each other's choices.

Conclusion: Understanding the nature of healthy and meaningful relationships is vital for counsellors. These relationships form the foundation of therapeutic work and significantly impact its effectiveness. By examining the characteristics of healthy relationships and considering theoretical frameworks, counselling professionals can develop the necessary skills to build and maintain these relationships in their practice. Aspiring counsellors should embark on a lifelong journey of self-development and cultivate self-awareness to provide the core conditions necessary for therapeutic change.


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McLeod, S. A. (2017) Attachment theory. Available at: (accessed on 18/11/2021)

Mearns, D., Thorne, B. and McLeod, J. (2013) Person-centred counselling in action. 4th edn. London: SAGE.

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