The Focusing Institute Presents The Gendlin Online Gendlin Online Library Banner

Gendlin, E.T. (1967). A scale for rating the manner of relating. In C.R. Rogers (Ed.) The therapeutic relationship and its impact: A study of psychotherapy with schizophrenics, pp. 603-611. Madison: Univ. Wisc. Press. From

[Page 603]

Appendix C.4.

A Scale for Rating the Manner of Relating [1]

Eugene T. Gendlin


  • 1. "Relationship quality" refers to explicit signs that the speaker considers at least one of the following to be the case:
    • a. The relationship is meaningful, important; or it is desirable that the relationship be, or become, meaningful and important.
    • b. It is appropriate to communicate intimately and personally; or it is desirable that it be, or become, appropriate to so communicate.
    • c. There is personal caring in the relationship; or it is desirable that there be, or come to be, personal caring.
    • d. The intention of the speaker is a–c above, and/or he assumes that intention in the other speaker.
  • 2. "Expressed" relationship quality occurs when the speaker explicitly states something that amounts to a–d above.
  • 3. "Assumed" relationship quality occurs when the speaker explicitly states something which does not itself amount to a–d above, but which would be inappropriate, meaningless, or absurd if he did not assume the relationship to be a–d above.
    Note: Both expressed and assumed relationship quality refer to definite explicit signs. The rater must be able to point to such signs.
  • 4. "Non-parallel" relationship quality occurs when one person expresses a widely different relationship quality than the other.


Stage 1: Refusal of a Relationship

There are definite indications that the individual refuses a relationship, and refuses or does not perceive the likelihood or desirability of a close personal relationship.


  • 1. The individual may overtly argue against the desirability or usefulness of a therapy relationship or of "talking," or of "meeting," or of [Page 604] "next time." He may indicate clearly that he wishes to leave, to come no more times, to be left alone.
  • 2. He may make explicit an attitude of, "O.K., so you force me to be here. I'll just sit," or "I have nothing to talk about."
  • 3. He may indicate clearly that he fears a relationship, that he is not trusting the therapist enough to talk genuinely to him, or that he suspects him of something. If this occurs, it must be clear (in stage 1) that he has no intention of sharing his real feelings concerning his fear or mistrust. He shows them, perhaps he says as much, but not in a confiding way, and he does not continue to expand them.
  • 4. He may discuss "psychotherapy" for himself in the distant sense of its general nature and its general applicability to people like himself—that is to say, he quite definitely avoids engaging the therapist directly, or sharing with him any actual feelings concerning himself and his troubles or the present interview. He may discuss those who sent him to psychotherapy (the doctors, his wife, boss, dean, etc.) and whether they are right or wrong. If so, he does not discuss these things in terms of his own troubled feelings or the events of his life, but in terms of the general nature of people who need psychotherapy, and of his arguments with others.
  • 5. Silences are preceded or followed by cues that indicate that during the silence the individual has not been exploring himself or been thinking about how to approach the therapist or the interview. Rather, the cues indicate that he has kept silent to demonstrate that he has nothing to say and wants to say nothing, and that this is his clearest expression of what he feels about the possibility of a relationship: it is not possible or not desirable.

General instructions for rating stage 1. —For stage 1 there must be definite indications of the individual's refusal of a relationship (or his lack of a sense of the desirability of one). To rate stage 1 you must be able to point to some phrases or behavior which, in your opinion, definitely indicate this.

In stage 1 the individual has no perspective on his refusal of a relationship. He does not work it through or share it. He acts it out or states it summarily.

Stage 2: Physical Acceptance of a Relationship without Overt Acceptance

The individual in stage 2 does not reject the relationship overtly, but he also gives no sign that he accepts its desirability or possible intimacy.

[Page 605]


  • 1. The individual does not respond to corroborate the therapist's relationship quality. This may happen if the therapist responds in ways that state or assume a desirable relationship. (For example, the therapist may speak so as to respond to the individual's deeper or more personal feelings in a way that assumes that the individual intends to share these. Or, the therapist may offer his personal response to the individual or to something he has said—thus assuming that there is a relationship in which personal responses are appropriate or desirable. The therapist may express care or concern. The therapist may state the commitment he feels to the relationship or that he will continue to see the individual as long as needed, etc. The therapist may express a desire to get to know the individual better—or may state some impression or question about him which assumes a wanting to get to know him better, or a desire to understand better what he just then said or felt, or the therapist may assume this desire to be appropriate and simply ask the individual to make it clearer.)

    Note that these different therapist behaviors all either state or assume that there is a relationship of personal interest, intimacy, and sharing—or at least that such a relationship is desirable. Both stated and assumed (see Definition 3) relationship qualities must refer to specific behavior to which you can point.

    In response to any of these therapist behaviors, the individual never corroborates the stated or assumed relationship quality (Definition 1. a-d, p. 603) He does not specifically and overtly reject or fight it, but he does not corroborate it. He either continues as if it had not happened, or keeps silent, or states something which indicates that he has misunderstood, avoided, or ignored it, or treated it as something casual.

    Such non-corroboration is noticeable in the "non-parallel" nature of the interchanges. The therapist statements are left hanging with his stated or assumed relationship of sharing while the individual's response each time is casual or avoidant or oblivious. One is embarrassed for the therapist as one listens. In stage 2, whenever the therapist response states or assumes the existence or desirability of a sharing and personally meaningful relationship, this non-parallel responding appears.

    Stage 2 behavior can be different than described above when the therapist does not behave so as to state or definitely assume such a relationship quality, Therefore, the following indications are also included in stage 2:
  • [Page 606] 2. Whereas some therapists frequently attempt to state or assume meaningful relationship quality, other therapists do so only rarely, spending most of the time going along with trivial communication, like polite social listeners. Even such therapists, however, do occasionally attempt a deeper, more personal or more personally understanding response. While during the long stretches of trivial talk the two individuals may sound "parallel," the "non-parallel" quality will be noticeable whenever the therapist does attempt a more personal response. Thus, this usually trivial and parallel communication is rated stage 2 provided the touchstone for stage 2 fits. The touchstone still is the same: non-parallel interchange whenever anything of a relationship quality does appear.
  • 3. At stage 2 the individual is not using the relationship (or its desirability and possibility) to project himself directly into it. The individual may ignore the therapist (except for trivial therapist statements). He may also employ behaviors which engage the therapist's role as only authority, without thereby engaging the therapist. For example, the following behaviors, if they constitute most of a segment, and if they are not personally charged and meaningful fit stage 2:
    • a) asking the therapist for the answer, the standard;
    • b) asking the therapist to ask questions so that individuals will know what to talk about;
    • c) expecting the therapist to indicate how the individual should behave in the interview;
    • d) asking the therapist to explain what therapy is.
    When these behaviors are a meaningful vehicle, a higher stage interaction can be occurring. Usually, however, they indicate that the individual is not relating himself to the therapist's person, but only to the therapist's authority role.
  • 4. Silences will be accompanied before and after by verbalization indicating that the silence is neither a stubborn "There is nothing I want or need to say," nor an exploration of self or approaches to the situation. Rather, the cues will indicate that the silence was simply a lapse, a "nothing" (when asked what he was thinking, the response would be something like "nothing"). Although we do not believe that silences contain "nothing," that is all that is explicitly indicated. Or, the silences will turn out to have been about trivialities ("I was listening to the noises outside."). Or, the topic discussed before silence, and the topic in the post-silence statement may relate (or divert) in such a way that it is clear that no exploration needs to have happened in between.
[Page 607]

General instructions for rating stage 2. —The individual does not overtly reject, fight, or devalue the relationship or its desirability. There is evidence, however, that he does not put himself into relationship either. At stage 2 a therapist might comment after the meeting, "At least he comes to the hour," or "The fact that he comes at all seems to have some real meaning to him." This will be said in the sense that, except for this he is not visibly putting himself into the relationship.

Whenever the therapist tries to make the relationship into something established, or tries to give it a more sharing or concerned character, or assumes these, the individual's lack of corroboration for these therapist meanings will be obvious (non-parallel). At other times there will be trivial parallel interchange.

Example, Stage 2

C: What the heck is a guy supposed to talk about at these meetings, these hours, ah—not me, ah er—

T: Seems to me for a while there—you were thinking of—some things that are important to you—maybe couldn't say or—

C: What? [loudly]

T: Something like that.

C: I was thinking of things?

T: I don't know. I was sitting here guessing what you were thinking but, it felt to me like you were more—things or feeling or something that—maybe it was just that I was wondering what you were feeling.

C: Oh, I don't know. There isn't much to talk about.

T: Seems to me the things that are important are hard to talk about.

C: Oh, they ain't hard, to, ain't nothing hard to talk about.

T: Feel hard to talk about—

C: What? [loudly]

T: Hard to talk about something. Can't yet—to me anyway.

Stage 3: Partial Acceptance of Relationship Quality or Intermittent Parallel Relationship Quality

At stage 3 there are indications both of corroboration of relationship quality, and of non-parallel or non-corroborating responses. That is, stage 3 is always characterized by indications—in the one brief sample to be rated—that sometimes and on some level, relationship quality is occurring and being corroborated, while, however, other moments or other signs indicate the opposite.


  • 1. Even in one brief segment there are both parallel and non-parallel interchanges. The individual, at least once, clearly corroborates that [Page 608] yes, there is a relationship, or that the therapist's statement is important to him, or importantly true, or that the time spent does have much meaning, or that the question of talking deeply to the therapist is a meaningful issue, or that some things are difficult to talk about but he might like to, or might not like to. On the other hand, also in the same brief segment, there will be at least one interchange in which a total non-acceptance of these "relationship assumptions" is shown. For instance one of the individuals may deny, hint at the falseness of, or misunderstand the other individual's assumptions of, a relationship quality (Definition 1. a-d, p. 603).

    The intermittent nature of the interchange is striking and consistent. One has just about decided that these two people understand each other very deeply when some remark will completely offset that impression and seem to indicate that—"Why—these two people do not understand each other at all—they can't have been talking about the same things in the same sense."
  • 2. The individual does put himself into the relationship and interacts with stated or assumed relationship quality, but the therapist does not receive or corroborate the relationship quality. Here it is the therapist who is non-parallel, avoidant, casual, oblivious, or misunderstanding. This condition may persist throughout a segment, or it may be intermittent. It is never resolved or clarified.
  • 3. The individual puts himself into the relationship and interacts with stated or assumed relationship quality, but the two persons misunderstand each other (intermittently or consistently) without resolution or clarification of the misunderstandings. A "mixed up" quality occurs, which may persist, or be left hanging without resolution.
  • 4. Stage 3 may also be rated if there is only "qualified" acceptance of the relationship as a context in which the individual expresses himself. By "qualified" acceptance is meant that, while self-reporting may be smooth and while there may be no non-parallel responses, the individual holds himself back and out of the relationship, does not, of his own accord, express his real meanings, is hesitant, with one foot in and one foot out of relationship quality.

    To rate on this indication, there must be definite indications of some relationship quality, and there must also be definite indications of the lack of an established relationship context for self-expression.

General instructions for rating stage 3.— At stage 3 there are definite indications of relationship quality on the part of the individual, yet there are definite indications also, that relationship quality between the two individuals is not established. This may happen in four ways (cues of stage 3):

[Page 609]
  • intermittency
  • therapist non-parallelism
  • unresolved misunderstandings
  • qualified acceptance of relationship quality.

Stage 4: Parallel and Together, the Relationship as a Context of Therapy

The two persons are quite together in what they are doing, what they assume is happening, the importance and value of the meetings and interchanges, and the implicit purpose of each moment's interaction. When there are non-parallel interchanges, both persons assume that these are momentary unclarities which will be straightened out in the next moment. There are none of the persistent events which do occur in stage 3, that one has been entirely mistaken and these two people do not "get" each other at all. Instead there is the sense of an ongoing togetherness in basic assumptions of meaning, intent, and desirable intimacy, from moment to moment.

Rating instructions for stage 4.—The two individuals now share the same stated and assumed relationship quality. There may still be occasional silences rather than corroborations, but there are none of the intermittent or constant non-parallel or "mix-up" events in which one person denies, avoids, or does not receive the other person's meaningful communications.

This smooth parallel together quality, of course, concerns some communications of some meaning, intimacy, personal quality, or shared self (otherwise it is stage 2) but so long as some degree of meaning exists, the content depth is not to be evaluated by the rater.

In stage 4 the individual does live in the relationship and relates his personal expressiveness directly to the therapist. His relationship is the context in which he behaves as he does. Whatever the therapist may do or not do, the individual himself now acts and moves the relationship continuously.

Stage 5: The Relationship as Specific Therapy, Rather Than Only as General Context for Therapy

At stage 5 specific relationship events indicate a greater use of relationship than 4. The individual employs the relationship both as in stage 4, and in new ways. Stage 5 must fit stage 4 in that both individuals explicitly show that they assume the relationship to be one of sharing, intimacy, personal and self-focused or other's self-focused communication. Even when the relationship is disturbed and troubled, when there are conflicts, etc., these are "worked on" or shared, and both persons perceive them as significant and possibly valuable. Thus, stage [Page 610] 5 is at least 4, and the following:


  • 1. Specific indications that the therapist's presence or participation affects not only the given momentary events, but also the global manner of the individual's experiencing. Such statements as "Only here . . ." or, "Only with you . . ." followed by descriptions of some inward state or process are examples. The individual explicitly says, or makes quite clear, that the therapist's presence in the relationship is not only the overall context for his expressions, or that a particular response clarifies or vivifies something, but also that the therapist's presence affects the very nature of his self, or inward process.
  • 2. Specific behaviors in which the individual seeks the therapist out personally and engages him in the workings of his therapeutic process—these being events of the interaction, and their significance for the therapeutic process is recognized by the individual, or their importance to him is explicit.
  • 3. Battles or conflicts can be included if they do not shake the sense that each knows what the other means (or soon comes to know), i.e., that both communicate within a "parallel" or "together" context of personal interaction (otherwise it is stage 3 or below) and if it is not an argument (verbal, intellectual content, difference of opinion or interpretation) which, even if meaningful and personal, and "parallel" and "together" would be rated stage 4. Thus, only those battles and conflicts which involve stage 5 as it has been described, i.e., events of interaction (rather than argument) perceived by the individual as significant are rated stage 5.
  • 4. Silence, at stage 5, would be preceded or followed by explicit statements that during the silence some inward process has occurred which is personally vital to the individual and could not happen except with the therapist's presence.

General instructions for rating stage 5.—Stage 5 includes the "parallel" or "together" relationship quality of stage 4 but adds to that, specific interactional events which the individual indicates as significant to him in his personal processes of therapy.

Stage 6: The Relationship Is Ready to Be a Permanent Reality and Therefore Could Be Approaching Termination

At stage 6 the individual is still in therapy (the scale applies to therapy behavior). Nevertheless, the relationship has become such that it need not be "worked through" further. If there are "working [Page 611] through" explorations specifically concerning the relationship (that is to say, aspects of the relationship which are unresolved) then they concern termination. However, since termination discussions can occur at any stage, the following cues determine stage 6.


  • 1. Strong positive feelings for the therapist now are not explosively needful or conflict-raising. Neither person expresses a need to better understand, eliminate, alter, explore, or suspect these feelings before successful termination is possible. There are no inappropriate feelings, that is, whatever his feelings are, the individual holds them in a way that requires no inappropriate or impossible behavior, and termination would have no disruptive consequences for him.

    Feelings toward the therapist are of the kind which the individual can well take with him into life without therapy.

    (The above two cues mean that there is definitely not a single indication to the contrary, to which you can point. If there is, then the individual must be rated at stages 5, 4, etc., since issues of this kind arise at many stages).
  • 2. The relationship is person to person. Although the professional role of the therapist may be implicit, it does not inhibit the personal feeling between the two individuals. (No definite signs that it does.)
  • 3. The person to person quality is not worked for. It simply is there, without the strain of self-examining surprise that might attend person-to-person feelings in stage 5.
  • 4. The individual's self which he may express in words shows definite indications that stages 4 and 5 have been gone through. Such definite indications might be:
    • a) explicit statements concerning earlier therapy events,
    • b) private vocabulary between T and C which they both know and which definitely concerns stage 5 events,
    • c) statements concerning the relationship indicative explicitly of therapist was essential at one time to the new self, but is not now.

General instructions for rating stage 6.—You cannot and should not guess when therapy will be successfully over. Stage 6 is a stage of therapy and could continue for a long time. Do not be concerned with therapeutic content, since this is a relationship scale.

At least one of the above must be definitely indicated (you must be able to point to at least a phrase or interaction that indicates it) and none of the above indications can be contradicted by any sign.

[The note below appears in the original text at the foot of the page it is cited on.]


[1] Half-stage ratings may not be used in this scale.

Note to Readers:
  • How Do I Refer To This Document? An example reference is at the top of this page. Please include the Internet address in the reference, even if you cite the document in a printed article, so that others can find the Gendlin Online Library.
  • Can I Link Directly To This Document? Yes. We encourage you to link directly to it from your own online documents. We have built "hooks" into this web page to make it very easy to connect to individual pages and headings in the text. For examples, see: How to Link to The Gendlin Online Library.
  • Biographic Note: Eugene T. Gendlin is a seminal American philosopher and psychologist. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Chicago and taught there from 1963 to 1995. His philosophical work is concerned especially with the relationship between logic and implicit intricacy. Philosophy books include Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning, Language Beyond Post-Modernism: Saying and Thinking in Gendlin's Philosophy edited by David Michael Levin, (fourteen commentaries and Gendlin’s replies), and A Process Model. There is a world wide network of applications and practices ( stemming from this philosophy. Gendlin has been honored three times by the American Psychological Association for his development of Experiential Psychotherapy. He was a founder and editor for many years of the Association’s Clinical Division Journal, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. His book Focusing has sold over half a million copies and has appeared in seventeen languages. His psychology-related books are Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams and Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy.
  • If you see any faults in this document please send us an email.
  • Add a comment to the Gendlin Online Blog for this article.
  • See the reference for this document in the Gendlin primary bibliography.
  • More on Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy from the Focusing Institute website.
  • More on Science/Research from the Focusing Institute website.
  • The Gendlin Online Library is presented by the Focusing Institute, a not-for-profit organization. If you find the library useful, you can contribute to its maintenance and growth, at
Document #2119 version 071003 build 071008