The Four Basic Dimensions of the Relationship According to Gary Landreth

Gary Landreth (2012) outlines four basic dimensions of a relationship, four healing messages that we hope to make explicit in our relationship with another. He provides these in the context of play therapy with children, but they can easily be considered within the broader contexts of relationships and intimacy.

1. I am here.

Nothing will distract me. I will e fully present physically, mentally, and emotionally. I want to be so fully present that there will be no distance between myself and you. I want to enter fully into your world, to move about freely in your world, to sense what you sense, to feel what you feel. Once I have achieved this kind of knowing contact, it is easy to know when I am not in contact with you. Can I enter so fully into your world that I have no need to evaluate you any more?

2. I hear you.

I will listen fully with my ears and eyes to everything about you, what is expressed and not expressed. I want to hear you completely. Can I experience, hear, you as you are? To accomplish this kind of hearing, I must be secure enough within myself to allow you to be separate from me.

3. I understand.

I want you to know I understand what you are communicating, feeling, experiencing, and playing and so will work hard to communicate that understanding to you. I want to understand the inner depth and meaning of your experience and feelings, the loneliness of feeling no one cares, the hollowness of failure, the desperation that can accompany sadness. The crucial dimension in therapy is the communication of this kind of understanding and acceptance of you.

4. I care.

I really do care about you and want you to know that. If I am successful in communicating fully the first three messages, I will not be perceived as a threat, and you will allow me into your world. Then, and only then, will you know that I care. What i have experienced is that this kind of caring releases the dynamic potential that already exists in you. I don’t create anything. Whatever change or growth we make, you make, already exists in us, in you.


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