What is NOT a Therapeutic Relationship in the Context of Schools?


The ancient idea of schools working as authority figures bringing education to the masses, who were expected to submit and obey in neat rows of silent learners, is no longer a model many schools subscribe to. Telling the student or family what they should be doing in a meeting may not result in the results desired.

Without Boundaries

Boundaries provide stability and safety for all involved. There may be some element of predictability in the relationship between the parties involved if there is a code of conduct that is expected to be followed. Think back to a time when boundaries were not held in a meeting. What happened? Did it go on forever? Did no resolution seem to come of things? Did another meeting have to be planned to cover what was missed?

Expert vs Others

In an educational institution built on the idea of passing on knowledge, the idea of “not knowing” may seem counterproductive. “Expert” relationships establish one party as the one who knows and the other as the one who must receive that knowledge. The receiver is stripped of any of their own agency or expertise in this situation. A therapeutic relationship says that both parties have something to contribute and learn from one another.


How do we describe the people who attend our meetings? Are they “attendees” or “guests”? The language of meetings can sometimes stir up images of passive roles of people being talked at, or invited to a space as an interloper or stranger. Therapeutic meetings will include members and expect them to be “participants” or “contributors”. Think of meetings where you have just been invited to listen but not engage in an active way. What feelings does that stir up in you?

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