The Importance of the Relationship
Hallman shares a story of a woman who, after the breakup of a three-year relationship with her female partner, entered therapy and over the next several years experienced incredible significant changes in her “core negative beliefs about herself and God,” her defensive behaviors, her paths of emotional escape and her dependent and sexualized friendships with women. When this woman was asked, “what helped her stabilize and make such incredible changes,” she replied,
“My therapist! She was focused on me, She cared about all of my life. She showed respect. But even more than that she was always the same, even when I was wrung out with anxiety and thoughts of hurting myself. She was consistent, attentive and patient. Her calming voice, her strong boundaries, her availability, her listening ears, her gentleness and her femininity all somehow changed me! She never gave up on me. She gave me hope” (p. 18).
Hallman posed this same question to over 20 women who fought with unwanted SSA; “what affected them most about psychotherapy or lay counseling?” She received the same answer from all of them: “the relationship” (p.20).
Most of us would agree that there is a biblical precedent for the importance of relationships in our sanctification*. Many of us can testify to a time when our lives intersected with another and were forever changed for the better because of it. These relationships, characterized by love, patience, humility, perseverance, and stability are in and of themselves curative and invaluable to helping a woman with SSA (Hallman, 2008).
Safety and Trust
Most women with SSA need to feel safe first, before they can feel loved and begin to trust (p. 20).
Hallman explains that safety is a particularly difficult thing for women with SSA to find. The debates and controversy that surround homosexuality particularly in regards to the topic of “change” can leave a woman overwhelmed and exhausted. She goes on to say, “These women long for a safe, quiet place to simply be…They want to be known as a person, not just a woman with SSA…They are so much more than the sum of their sexual expression, yet—like all women—need a place to explore and ask personal heartfelt questions about life, love, sexuality, gender and God without being rejected or worrying about political correctness. They need a safe place” (p. 21).
Hallman goes on to say that one of the first goals a counselor should have when meeting with any woman with SSA is to offer this safe place. She suggests that what provides this safe place is “unconditional love, acceptance and genuine desire to understand a woman’s choices with respect to her life” (p. 33). Our relationships should reflect “God’s undying faithfulness and enduring presence to these women.”
Hallman concludes by stating that she “therefore remains committed to a woman regardless of her current decisions” (p. 33). Tomorrow I will be posting a bit more on what creating a safe place practically looks like. Enjoy your Saturday evening and have a blessed, restful and worshipful Sunday.
Note: While I may not agree with everything Hallman says in regard to this particular topic of what a counseling/therapeutic relationship should look like, I greatly appreciate her general approach and have learned much from her. While Hallman may be speaking from the perspective of a professional therapist much of what she says can be applied to less formal discipleship relationships as well as friendships etc.
(All of the page references are from Hallman, 2008)
*(Ephesians 4:11-16; Galatians 6:1-2; I Peter 4:10; James 5:16; Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25; I Thess. 4:18, 5:11, Colossians 3:16)
Hallman, Janelle. (2008). The heart of female same-sex attraction: A comprehensive counseling resource. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.