Windows into our work
Sally Denham-Vaughan with Leanne O'Shea

One of the three core purposes of Relational Change is to establish, support and sustain an international community of relational practitioners who apply their skills in a wide range of contexts: organisational consulting, coaching, community building and psychotherapy.

We believe that our collaboration and diversity enables us to advance the adoption of relational values, as well as methodologies and skills, which we see as ever more needed in the world. Here, Dr Leanne O’Shea, Relational Change Associate based in Melbourne, Australia, describes her work and the benefits she sees in working together.
For the last twenty years or so I’ve worked primarily as a clinician and educator, with gestalt as my primary orientation. In my recent times, what has been highlighted is the ‘relational’ aspect of not just my approach, but of the organisations of which I have been a part: Gestalt Therapy Australia, Relational Change, The Relational Centre, and The Pacific Gestalt Institute.
This begs the question, what does ‘relational’ mean?  And, at a practical level, what difference does it make to my practice?

For me, relationality points to the irrefutable ground of interdependence. We exist in relationships, it is our first (and only) reality. But in order to thrive, these relational connections need to be nourished by contexts that are well-resourced, supportive, and dependable. Individual health cannot be separated from social and cultural contexts in which it is situated. This changes the way I think about the work I do.
I’ve long been concerned with what might be called the exploration of an ‘erotic sensibility’. Over time this has taken a number of different guises. Initially, I was most interested in the ways in which sexuality inhabited the therapeutic relationship. In the theoretical literature this is typically described as either erotic transference or erotic countertransference. But my concern was more with the very concrete and immediate ways this emerged, particularly for the therapist in terms of how they might love, long for or be sexually attracted to their clients. It was an interest borne out in part by what seemed to me to be an inexplicable absence of this topic in the training curriculum. Since then, I’ve also turned my attention to thinking about the theoretical frames that shape our attitudes towards the erotic, as well as thinking more explicitly about sex itself.

In this work I’ve always relied on, and seen as foundational, what is now described as a relational approach. This has meant that I’ve always sought to understand sexual and erotic energy as relational phenomena, but also as something that emerges from a particular social and political context. In attempting to deconstruct sexuality and eros through this lens, I’ve sought to recast these issues in a way that opens them up for exploration, and seeks to counter the shame and dysfunction that so often relegates sexuality to the darker corners of our existence.
More recently, I’ve focused on that aspect of the erotic that speaks to our vital and alive engagement with the world. In some ways, I see eros as a particular form of contact, one that brings us into a deeply resonant sense of connection to the other, be that a person or the world in which we inhabit. To say this differently, eros opens up the possibility of an exquisite and deeply nuanced attunement that is nourishing and vital, but also confronting because it challenges the disconnection and disengagement that so much in our modern life invites.
So when I think of the values that we so desperately need to counter, the self-interest, fear and destruction that seems so endemic in our world, the erotic stands for me as a core value. I do think there are others worthy of mention (kindness, generosity, humility and courage) but the commitment to develop an erotic sensibility will, I believe, lead us into a sense of connection, with ourselves and with others, that will not only support us towards much urgently needed action, but will provide us with the nourishment that we need for such work.
This brings me to my final point: the importance of Relational Change, and what my connection to this group means to me, personally and in terms of the work I do. Most simply, Relational Change for me is a group of people whose values I share. People whose kindness, generosity and intelligence are used as a resource in the work – for doing good, building connection and working to make a difference in the lives of people, in communities and organisations. With them I have a sense of belonging but also a sense of responsibility, and the reassurance that I’m not doing this on my own.

November 30th | Central London

Whether you are a therapist, counsellor, organisational consultant, coach or just interested in the work of Relational Change, we believe you will discover something useful in this day of reflection and discussion... read more >>


Starts December 2017 | Esher, Surrey

ROG is for coaches, consultants, leaders, facilitators and change agents in any field, and is ideal for therapists and counsellors aiming to move into coaching or organisational work... read more >>


Starts December 2017 | Kingston, Surrey

This course is UKCP recognised, meets BACP standards, and is suitable for psychotherapists, counsellors and coaches with at least 2 years experience, wishing to be accredited to supervise others... read more >>

Starts January 2018 | Kingston, Surrey

For practitioners who wish to extend their work into or with couples, this course is suited to those trained in humanistic, integrative, person-centred, gestalt, TA, process or contemporary analytic approaches... read more >>
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Relational Change · The Woodlands · Esher, Surrey KT10 8DB · United Kingdom

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