Relationship Overviews

Talking about relationships using figures and objects


Relationship Overviews

Relationship overviews are formed when people set out an arrangement of figures or objects representing the people who are influencing their life. They are very helpful in professional consultations with people who are experiencing difficulties in their relationships. The figure arrangements lead easily to constructive dialogues about dilemmas, difficulties, understandings and resources. Relationship overviews are varied in form and size, and can be used in many kinds of consultations in a variety of settings with individuals, families, and groups.

On the pages of the website, I describe various kinds of relation overview, I look into the influence they have on conversations and the kinds of dialogue they can lead to. There is also a page about resources for professional work with relationship overviews and a blog for feedback and discussion.
Working with relationship overview is different from therapy with puppets, but there are some links to that way of working on the Resources page.

A relationship overview can be very small, a couple or a family, or large - a whole social network. Smaller relationship overviews can be easily made with all kinds of objects - chess pieces, buttons, stones, etc. A collection of figures is better suited for representing broader social contexts and will open for a greater range of uses and approaches.

Figures and objects can be set out and arranged to show the people who are important to a person and how they influence their life. This is an unusual form of expression for most people, capable of bringing out new perspectives to dilemmas and difficulties that they are facing. Relationship overviews stimulate fresh ideas and are effective in bringing out stories about the ways people get on together and how various relationships influence each other, seen in a broader social context.

Making and discussing a relationship overview is an active and creative process that easily engages people of all ages. The arrangements of figures and objects captures and focuses attention and usually brings an element of playfulness to conversations that can free peoples thinking from their preconceptions. People ‘listen’ with both their ears and eyes while they reconsider their own understandings and those of other people who are important to them. Because figures and objects can easily be moved around, relationship overviews are very flexible aids to dialogue.


A model with Dialogue at the centre

This website looks at twelve ways that relationship overviews can contribute to conversations about relationships and at six areas of dialogue where they are particularly useful. This is illustrated by a model based on a corolla pattern of coloured hexagons surrounding the central principle of Dialogue. The inner ring indicates six conversational themes that are enhanced by using arrangements of figures, and the outer ring showing twelve ways that using figures arrangements influences conversations.


The Scope of Relationship Overviews

Relationship overviews can be used in all sorts of conversations: with children and adults, individuals, couples, families and groups. They can be a helpful aid to professionals in many different settings where issues around relationships need to be talked about. This may be the therapy room, consultation office, hospital ward, care centre, school room, workplace or home visits.


This website is intended to function also as a forum for discussion about the use of figures and objects in talking about relationships, with a blog including contributions from other counsellors and therapists. Your thoughts and examples of using figures and objects in conversations are very welcome. If you register your e-mail, I will be able to keep in touch and send information about news, updates, etc. I will not share your details.
Steven Balmbra