Thursday, February 4, 2010

“Only Connect”: Depression and Interpersonal Connection

E.M. Forester, is the British writer famous for a number of classic novels (many of which have been made into films), including “Howard’s End” and “Maurice”. He is also attributed with the expression “only connect” in referring to the importance of human relationships.

Counsellors are well aware of the importance of human relationships in a person’s well being and mental and emotional health. Attachment theory focuses on the centrality of the attachment between the child and the parent and how this type of attachment has implications for our relationships in later life. Other researchers and counsellors, notably Sue Johnson, have also studied the importance of attachment later in adult life as well. For example, couples in conflict or distress are often experiencing attachment anxieties including wondering if their partner will really be there for them emotionally.

There is good evidence that social support plays an important role in mental health or substance use problems. People who are clinically depressed report lower levels of social support than people who are not currently depressed. Those who are coping with depression tend to report fewer supportive friends, less contact with their friends, less satisfaction with their friends and relatives, lower marital satisfaction, and confide less in their partners.

Depression is certainly a complex phenomenon and frequently has biological, psychological and underpinnings. However, in at least some circumstances a person’s experience of depression may well indicate a lack of connection in his or her life. The focus in counselling then becomes one of increasing the level and types of social supports and sometimes looking at thoughts, feelings and behaviours that may get in the way of forming and sustaining strong interpersonal relationships.



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