A concept developed by the late psychologist Carl Rogers back in the 1960's, unconditional positive regard is to accept and respect others without judgement and I would argue a determining factor in the relationship building process. It is a key element of our work as therapists, both 'in the office' and out in the bush on our adventure therapy programs.
As Will recently mentioned in a previous blogpost, 'unconditional positive regard and genuine warmth are the best relationship building tools we have.' Research strongly supports that relationship factors between the worker and client make up to 30% of the key elements for positive outcomes. Studies also suggest that a huge number of people report positive outcomes simply from just attending therapy, regardless of what approach the therapist takes - people feel better seeing a therapist, than not.
To me, this suggests that simply having someone to talk to, feel comfortable with, and to sit in a non judgemental space is beneficial; developing a relationship with the person providing this is therapeutic in itself.
In the field, we live with our participants - so we have time. More time than most. And generally what we find, is that after perhaps some boundary testing, young people often realise that they cannot push us away. We accept their thoughts and values, even if different from our own.
And so they're somewhat forced to sit uncomfortably sometimes. As it can be a strange feeling to have someone share your space, even when you feel at your worst - the compassionate and caring relationship actually invites young people to reflect and inquire about their troubles.
I believe providing this unconditional positive regard through relationship building with clients, is how we attempt to move away from these self destructing patterns, and begin finding positive ones.
True North Expeditions, Inc. provides adventure therapy programs and services for children and teenagers in Australia. Based in Adelaide, the TNE team writes about child and adolescent psychology, family dynamics and how adventure therapy programs can connect with struggling adolescents.