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: Helping Relationships: From Core Dimensions to Brief Approaches

Douglas R. Gross and David Capuzzi

The helping relationship appears to be a cornerstone on which all effective helping rests (Bertolino & O'Hanlon, 2002; Halverson & Miars, 2005; Miars & Halverson, 2001; Seligman, 2001; Skovholt, 2005; Sommers-Flanagan, 2007). Words such as integral, necessary, and mandatory are used to describe this relationship and its importance in the ultimate effectiveness of the helping process. Even though different theoretical systems and approaches use different words to describe this relationship (see Chapters 3 through 16), each addresses the significance of the helping relationship in facilitating client change. Kottler and Brown (1992), in their book Introduction to Therapeutic Counseling, made the following comments regarding the significance of this relationship:

Regardless of the setting in which you practice counseling, whether in a school, agency, hospital, or private practice, the relationships you develop with your clients are crucial to any progress you might make together. For without a high degree of intimacy and trust between two people, very little can be accomplished, (p. 64)

In further support of the significance of the helping relationship, Brammer and MacDonald (1996) wrote:

The helping relationship is dynamic, meaning that it is constantly changing at verbal and nonverbal levels. The relationship is the principle process vehicle for both helper and helpee to express and fulfill their needs, as well as to mesh helpee problems with helper expertise. Relationship emphasizes the affective mode, because relationship is commonly defined as the inferred emotional quality of the interaction, (p. 52)

The ideas expressed in these two quotes describe the essential value of the helping relationship in the process of counseling or psychotherapy and the significant role that the counselor or therapist plays in developing this relationship. Through this relationship, client change occurs. Although the creation of this relationship is not the end goal of the process, it certainly is the means by which other goals are met. It serves as the framework within which effective helping takes place.

This chapter has two purposes. First, it aids the reader in understanding the various factors that affect the helping relationship: definitions and descriptions, stages, core dimensions, strategies, and issues of diversity. Second, it provides the reader with an overview of the selected brief approaches that we have asked each of our theory authors to discuss in their chapters. We hope that the information presented in this chapter will not only help the reader to understand the dynamics of the helping relationship and their application in both theory-specific and brief approaches but also help the reader incorporate these dynamics into his or her chosen theoretical approach.

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