The Interventive Relationship: Purposeful Practice and Transforming Adverse Experiences

Breda Friel, Paul Sweeney

Research output: Working paper

222 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents the theoretical underpinnings of a particular type of working
alliance, the ‘Interventive Relationship’ (IR), based on case study evidence from
Extern, a voluntary organisation in Northern Ireland working with children, adults
and families presenting with experiences of adversity. Third sector organisations,
such as Extern, play a crucial role, providing individual and group interventions with
groups assessed at “risk”. Such organisations operate in a context of austerity, where
resource competitiveness and constraints place operational demands on programme
delivery. Pressure for outcomes, evidence and accountability can have a negative
impact on interactions founded on process and relational approaches.
This paper examines the validity and purpose of “relationship based, and process led
approaches” and proposes a model for articulating change in multi-disciplinary
practice with client groups where childhood and adulthood adversity are a significant
theme. It articulates and expands on a distinction between the use of self in
therapeutic counselling and in multi-disciplinary social and youth work settings.
Using case study methodology, respondent perceptions about the process and depth
of interaction between worker and service user were examined. The essential factors
that contribute toward positive change, facilitate risk reduction and contribute to
increased resilience are examined. The Interventive Relationship (IR) is presented as
a five-stage sequential model, (initiation/foundation/preparation,
developing/negotiation, synthesis/unity point, autonomy/independence and finally
quantitative/qualitative outcomes. The essential ingredients and necessary conditions
for transformative learning, or change process, through the model are illustrated and
presented diagrammatically.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019


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