Honoring Clients Through the Therapeutic Relationship and Process
Respect is basic and essential to any positive human interaction. We all need and seek it. And yet, respect seems often to be lacking in a deeply harmful way in our world, our homes, in our workplaces, and our communities. This phenomenon is often overlooked in therapy. We, who are in the mental health field, need to take a harder, more deliberate look at how we can best facilitate our clients establish the awareness and skills necessary to get it back.
We find examples of the lack of respect in the everyday lives of many of our clients, such as apathy in communication and listening skills in many relationships, serious disregard for the feelings of others, meanness in speech, or violent communication, as well as violent actions and abuse. The connections between these various levels of disrespectful behavior often seem to be understudied and therefore not addressed fully. In this chapter, we focus on these connections and the patterns they create to better understand the powerful strength of intervention respect can have as well as the danger and malignancy disrespect, unrecognized and untreated, imposes.
Respect is not only a noun but is also, and more powerfully, an active verb, requiring an intentional action of some sort. It can be as small as making eye contact with a pleasant smile or greeting, or not interrupting someone speaking—simply good manners or polite behavior, as many think it to be. But it can be so much more, exceeding form or cordiality, becoming as deep as being tolerant and accepting of others’ behavior or understanding of varying human perspectives, such as sexual or cultural differences. Regardless, respect can serve as a healing agent, making every human interaction work more effectively.
Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is not a technique or a theoretical model, but rather a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy are, or should be, grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. For the remaining of this chapter, I will be considering other theoretical approaches as they relate to Respect-Focused Therapy, how they are supportive through similarities as well as how RFT brings additional perspective, unifying all of these approaches through the lens of respect.