Counselling Theory and Practice:- RELATIONSHIP THERAPY

Relationship Therapy

Theory and Practice PART TWO Life Stages
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© 2010 - Peter Creagh, Trainer, Supervisor and BACP Registered Counsellor UKRC
Life Stages

Counselling Theory and Practice:- RELATIONSHIP THERAPY

General Introduction
This is one of a series of short notes that explore aspects of Relationships. Arguably, relationships are one of the most important issues that face each of us throughout life. We are , for the most part, conceived through the most intimate relationship between a man and a woman. Our relationship with our mother is extremely important and we continue to have relationships that heavily influence our personality, choices and life. In another short paper we explored aspects of Buber’s theories of relationship. A short resume now follows. For Buber, relationships were holistic and involved all aspects of what it is to be human. Buber explained this philosophy of relationship using the word pairs of I/ Thou and I /It. With these pairs he outlines two modes of consciousness, encounter and being through which an individual engages with other individuals, the world and with reality.. In other words, he suggests that we adopt two attitudes toward relating with the world and with others, either as I/Thou (I/You) or I/It. The I/Thou mode is a way of relating that is subject-to-subject, where we are aware of each other in an holistic manner without the concept of ‘false’ boundaries. To put it another way, in the I/Thou relationship we do not perceive each other as consisting of defined and separated persons with different parts or qualities, but we engage in a dialogue involving each other's whole being – Body- Psyche and Spirit. However, in the I/It relationship we engage at the subject-to-object level. At this level we do perceive each other as consisting of defined and separated parts and thus view ourselves, and others, as part of a world which consists of ‘ things’ with distinct boundaries. Therefore, whilst the I/Thou is a relationship of mutuality and reciprocity, the I-It is one of separateness and detachment. Throughout life we struggle with these two modes and this struggle is fuelled by the tensions between our often conflicting needs for intimacy, independence and identity.

In this second note of this series we look at some aspects of Life Stages NOTE This notes are complemented by a series of practical exercises presentations ( not based on the Authors 18 years experience as a Relationship Therapist.

Heartsease Training, Shifnal Shropshire

email : - petercreagh43@virginmedia.com

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© 2010 - Peter Creagh, Trainer, Supervisor and BACP Registered Counsellor UKRC
Life Stages

Counselling Theory and Practice:- RELATIONSHIP THERAPY

LIFE STAGES
Patterns – Tasks - Experiences
INTRODUCTION
Very often people report difficulties and stresses at important stages in their lives In most societies we progress through a series of stages or periods which often carry with them expectations and related tasks. Each of these stages can provide us with challenges that test our inner and outer resources and demand good problem solving attributes. Several of these important stages involve sexuality, intimacy and relationships ans and these involve families and couples. A theory proposed by Erikson ( 995) accepts and integrates the above points and supports the concept of a Life – Stages Model of therapy. Erikson , building on earlier psychodynamic developmental models, introduced a social and psycho - dynamic element into his ‘ Eight Ages of Man ‘ model. This brief note will examine some of these concepts and relate them to relationship counselling.

Life Stages – Erikson’s Eight Stages
As previously stated, Erikson outlined eight important developmental stages. He outlined the following points concerning these stages : • The process of development does not cease after childhood, but is continuous throughout life. Each stage has its own unique conflict to resolve. Successful resolution of the conflict is the task of that stage A successful outcome in a stage gives us a lasting strength taken on to other stages and succeeding cycles . which is then

• • •

Failure to resolve a conflict in any stage may result in us having to revisit these at a further stage in life. This is particularly true when stresses and strains appear in our life. Examples of common stresses are, sexual intimacy, entering an intimate relationship, having children and our parents getting old and infirm. and
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We now need to look at Erikson’s stages and their attendant conflict(s), tasks strengths
Heartsease Training, Shifnal Shropshire email : - petercreagh43@virginmedia.com

© 2010 - Peter Creagh, Trainer, Supervisor and BACP Registered Counsellor UKRC
Life Stages

Counselling Theory and Practice:- RELATIONSHIP THERAPY

Erikson’s Eight Stages The following table outlines aspects of Erikson’s eight stages. The task of each stage is to resolve or balance a specific conflict and a successful outcome results in the acquisition of a strength. Failure to successfully negotiate a stage can lead to us being faced with this in later life.

STAGE
1. Babyhood
( Oral Sensory)

BALANCING CONFLICT ( Managing )
TRUST V MISTRUST (Anxiety) AUTONOMY V SHAME ( Doubt & Frustration) INITIATIVE V GUILT ( Learning Values ) INDUSTRY V INFERIORITY ( Independence and work ) IDENTITY V ROLE CONFUSION ( Balance Creativity & Self Absorption ) INTIMACY V ISOLATION ( Sharing dependency in Relationships ) GENERATIVITY V STAGNATION ( The Balance between Others & Self ) EGO INTEGRITY V DESPAIR ( Achievements & Disappointments of life )

SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME ( Strengths )
Drive & Hope

2. Toddler
( Muscular Anal)

Self -Control & Willpower

3. Pre-School
Locomotor/Genital

Direction & Purpose

4. Early School
( Latency )

Competence & Method

5. Adolescence
( and Puberty )

Devotion & Fidelity

6. Adult ( Young ) 7. Adult ( Mid- Life ) 8. Maturity ( Later Life )

Affiliation & Love

Production & Care

Renunciation & Wisdom

THE EIGHT STAGES – CONFLICTS – TASKS – STRENGTHS
The above stages are common experiences and unsuccessful resolutions ‘shadow’ us throughout our lives. Life Stages theory suggests that when either a crisis occurs or some great change in our lives , then this can ‘trigger off’ unresolved issues. This is particularly true in close relationships, where the same event can trigger quite different crisis in both parties and this can make the task of the counsellor more difficult. We will now look at how relationship counselling adapts the above stage to individual – parental and couple roles.

Heartsease Training, Shifnal Shropshire

email : - petercreagh43@virginmedia.com

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© 2010 - Peter Creagh, Trainer, Supervisor and BACP Registered Counsellor UKRC
Life Stages

Counselling Theory and Practice:- RELATIONSHIP THERAPY

Life Stages and the Couple Relationship
The useful thing about Life Stages is that it offers an alternative rationale to the difficulties of couples and how these difficulties affect the relationship. This is because as couples negotiate their ‘crisis’ through different stages , they are also affected by the life stage changes of both their parents and children. This gives rise to the following potential crisis. PARENTAL ASPECTS. • There is a loss of identity which parenthood can bring as couples devote themselves to caring for their children. Thus they can ‘lose’ their role as lovers as they over-focus on their role as parents. E.G. 1. A couple have been happy together for many years and their sexual intimacy has been very good. Then a child arrives and, as expected, the mother now focuses totally on the child and the father feels ‘pushed out’. Thus the relationship enters a state of crisis. E.G. 2 As above but now both parents become totally absorbed by the child or children. Their whole life revolves around the children’s needs to the exclusion of their own and of the needs of the relationship. • As their children grow up , parents are, by proxy, constantly re-visiting earlier life stages. These involve all the developmental crisis and can ‘ring bells’. E.G. An example of this could be that a mother had an unfortunate, or even abusive, first experience of sex when she was 13years old. Now, as her daughter enters puberty , the mother begins to act out of character and either become over protective or , if she herself had been abused, re-enters her trauma and/or finds sex difficult. • Children growing up and leaving home lead to loss and its consequential crisis and the need to re-negotiate themselves as a couple. This is often referred to as ‘The empty nest syndrome’ Then there is the crisis of adapting to the role of grandparent. This can be difficult for some as it begins to remind people of their growing mortality. Many of the above can often happen as couples enter their mid-life – with its attendant developmental crisis. This compounds one crisis with one or more others.

Heartsease Training, Shifnal Shropshire

email : - petercreagh43@virginmedia.com

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© 2010 - Peter Creagh, Trainer, Supervisor and BACP Registered Counsellor UKRC
Life Stages

Counselling Theory and Practice:- RELATIONSHIP THERAPY

COUPLE RELATIONSHIP ASPECTS • Virtually all of the crisis points outlined in the previous page have an impact of both family and couple relationships. In addition, couples also face several other crisis. These are: Couples also face the advancing aging of their own parents.

As parents enter old age, it can lead to a role reversal. The child , who is now also and adult and probably a parent themselves, has to assume the role of parent to their own parent. This is difficult for both of them but can also impact on their own relationship. • As their own old age advances, couples have to make further adjustments – change in sex life, accepting their own mortality , with its consequences of dependency and loss. Preparing for their own retirement – which can seriously affect the relationship. This is because, previously they had their own roles in life and spend some time apart. Now, in retirement, they have to re-negotiate their relationship and the increasing amount of time they spend together. The crisis of accepting mutual dependency and the death of a partner. This crisis comes for all couples and can be particularly more difficult for males.

Comments on Crisis. The advent of some or all of the crisis outlined can give rise to difficulties within the relationship. This occurs as it awakens memories or echoes of previous stages in life. This is particularly true for parents who so often ‘mirror’ the crisis and challenges of their children as they enter developmental stages. Very often the problem is compounded by one or more of the following. • • A tendency to withdraw from life and the situation. Attempts to repeatedly ‘solve’ the crisis with previously unsuccessful solutions and a repetition of responses based on their own family system, with its attendant value system

Heartsease Training, Shifnal Shropshire

email : - petercreagh43@virginmedia.com

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© 2010 - Peter Creagh, Trainer, Supervisor and BACP Registered Counsellor UKRC
Life Stages

Counselling Theory and Practice:- RELATIONSHIP THERAPY

FINAL THOUGHTS These notes are based on the assumption that most couples are entering their own midlife stage as their children are entering early adulthood. Erikson’s eight stages provides an alternative to other psychodynamic models, which stress the link between current problems and childhood. Erikson links crisis to developmental stages and for many people this , on the surface, makes sense and provides a starting point for therapy and possible and potential change. Counsellors who wish to use this model need to be aware of the following clues and possible strategies. • A triggering cause such as – children and their development stages, mid-life crisis, onset of old age , death of parent(s) etc. Some shared difficulties in both the couples past – e.g. both lost parent while young. Regression to earlier stage - often seen in ‘mid-life crisis’ Adopt strategies which assist couple to focus on earlier stages and their development crisis Compare their responses to the stages and how each adapted and managed the developmental tasks Assist clients to face the anxieties aroused by the changes.

• •

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Erikson E ( 1995) Jacobs, M ( 1998) Nelson-Jones,R ( 1982) Childhood and Society Psychodynamic Counselling in Action The Theory & Practice of Counselling Psychology Penguin SAGE Cassell

Heartsease Training, Shifnal Shropshire

email : - petercreagh43@virginmedia.com

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© 2010 - Peter Creagh, Trainer, Supervisor and BACP Registered Counsellor UKRC
Life Stages

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