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Principals and Benefits of Sponsorship

A powerful approach to healing is that of self-relations.  The primary objective of this new psychotherapy is to focus on the relationship between a person and their own self. In my last post, I shared some of my in-depth study with Stephen Gilligan, Ph.D, who came up with this approach. The idea is that each problem and symptom experienced by an individual presents opportunities for major growth, if self-awareness exists.  Without that awareness, one can become mired in self-destructive patterns.

The foundation of self-relations is the principle of sponsorship.  This is the commitment, or vow, to help a person (including one’s self) to recognize how to use every event and experience in a positive way by connecting the goodness and gifts of self and the world. This acknowledgement gives value to each occurrence, regardless of how injurious it may appear.

Sponsorship skills can be developed, and they are worth the effort to do so.  Young children, don’t have language or other sponsorship skills for their feeling states (like being tired, hungry, or angry) leaving them to “act them out” until a caring adult recognizes their meaning. Hopefully, over time a child learns to recognize and “sponsor” their own feeling states.

Without these sponsorship skills, negative experiences or behaviors are neglected or ignored and become increasingly troublesome.  If the problem or symptom is recognized and sponsored however, the person who has a positive relationship with oneself can validate the experience and build on it.

As a therapist, my job is to not only be there as a sponsor but to help my clients develop their own sponsorship skills.  A balance between the following aspects of sponsorship can transform a negative experience or behavior into one of value:

The receptive aspect of sponsorship encourages openness, a safe place to receive. It enables one to be curious, while intensely listening with kindness and understanding.

The active part of sponsorship includes being attentive, giving guidance while, at the same time, setting boundaries. It challenges self-limitations.

As this relationship between a person and their own self grows, they begin to see all the possibilities that are before them.  Through connectedness, their individual human value takes shape.  This develops self-appreciation and strength, along with the realization of the good gifts of who the person is. At this point, healing occurs naturally.


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