Author: Diana Gordon, Psy.D.
Many of our clients come to us with concerns about one or more important relationship in their lives. Being in relationships is a wonderful part of being human, and a lot of us want to make our relationship as strong as possible. But it can also be really difficult to build strong relationships where we feel emotionally safe and secure.
As CBT therapists, our approach to relational conflicts and concerns starts in the present. We want to understand where your relationship is right now and where you would like it to be, and give you concrete skills and tools for making improvements that you can see right away. As you start to see improvement, we may dive deeper into understanding how your past experiences are shaping your current behaviors. By combining present-focused skills and tools with deeper inquiry, we can help people clarify their relationship goals and improve their most important relationships.
One of the most important elements of close relationships is trust. In order to feel emotionally safe, we need to trust the other person. It sounds straightforward enough, but many of us have had experiences of thinking we could trust someone and finding out later that our trust was misplaced. Dr. Brene Brown developed a seven part definition of trust, which she refers to as the BRAVING technique. These seven components encompass the most essential processes that allow us to trust each other.
Boundaries: When someone has good boundaries, they respect your limits and your nos, and they clearly communicate their own limits. If they are unsure of your boundaries, they ask before making assumptions about what is OK.
Reliability: People who are reliable do what they say they are going to do and honor their commitments.
Accountability: Taking accountability means owning up to mistakes, big or small, and taking responsibility for our actions. It also means trying to make amends whenever possible.
Vault: People who we can trust keep our confidences. When we ask that something remain confidential, they comply.
Integrity: People who have integrity choose “courage over comfort,” meaning that they will do what’s right even if it’s harder or less fun than doing something else. They live by their values and actively practice them, rather than just talking about them.
Nonjugement: People who we can trust don’t judge us for expressing our needs, and they meet our needs with gentle curiosity rather than criticism. Both people in the relationship feel safe expressing what they need.
Generosity: People who are generous of spirit assume the best intentions from people that they trust. When someone we trust hurts us, we talk about it kindly and directly and trust them to receive it gracefully. We assume that they are coming from a place of love and trying their best.
We hope that this tool is helpful as you assess your most important relationships. When we work with our clients around relational concerns, this is one tool we can use to assess the relationship quality and to determine whether there are areas of growth. We work with clients to understand the role they are playing in relationship and to improve their own skills. We also work with people to help them understand the behaviors of those they are in relationship with, and to set strong boundaries to help navigate more challenging relationships. And as licensed psychologists, we can also treat psychiatric conditions that may be exacerbating relationship conflicts, such as depression, anxiety, or other disorders. Feel free to reach out for a free phone consultation to learn more about how we can help with these concerns. And stay tuned for more blog posts in our Improving Relationships series.
Diana Gordon, Psy.D., Kari Kagan Psy.D., and Katie Leoni, Psy.D.
Drs. Gordon, Kagan, and Leoni practice psychotherapy in downtown San Francisco and Oakland. Their areas of expertise include anxiety, sleep, stress, depression, and addiction. They blog about these topics to provide research-based information about common problems and strategies to help manage them.