Reflections on describing and descriptions of self-relations




Snell, Anita Joanne

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The influence an individual’s perspective has on her or his perceptions is a critical issue in the field of counselling. Counsellors are required to maintain a considerable level of self-awareness in order not to confuse their own experience with the experience of their client. It is proposed that an essential component of such self-awareness includes a knowledge of self-relations. The term self-relations implies both a self-structure - a relatively stable developmental integration of patterns and awarenesses - and the dynamic, shifting relationships within that self-structure. This study addressed the question: “How do four counsellors describe their self-relations?” The purpose of the inquiry was to gain knowledge about a range of self-relations, from functional to problematic, therefore counsellors who work with individuals meeting diagnostic criteria of borderline personality disorder [BPD] were selected. Borderline personality disorder is significant to the study in that the most commonly cited criterion for this disorder is the experiencing of difficulties concerning self-integration. Following a detailed methodological description of the interview and analysis procedures, the resulting themes are explicated. Themes emerged from four general categories: (a) events that took place in the interview, (b) personal themes, (c) professional issues, and (d) the interviewer’s perspective. The principal finding was the identification of an inherent correspondence between the participants’ self-relations and their therapeutic interventions. The manner in which figurative language constituted the individual styles of self-relations is explored. Implications for practice include a discussion of dissociative processes that focuses on the significant qualitative difference between theoretical conceptions and lived experience. An exercise is included in the appendixes that assists in the process of describing self-relations. It is recommended that this exercise be included as a component of counsellor education.