The Intentional Relationship Model (IRM) aims to facilitate practitioners in understanding the impact of therapeutic use of self and to provide useful approaches for maximizing the positive power of the social environment in order to facilitate occupational engagement. Therapeutic relationships comprise of an interaction between client, therapist, desired occupation, and interpersonal events that occur during the interaction. The model focuses on the interpersonal events of therapy, and emphasizes on the power that therapists have in either reinforcing or inhibiting the client’s motivation. It is important for the therapist to develop the interpersonal skills for building a therapeutic alliance and to use appropriate communication styles that best support the client’s occupational needs. Otherwise, “empathic breaks” are likely to occur. Therefore, the therapist should respond with “mindful empathy" to support the client’s needs. Interpersonal reasoning is the process of the therapist monitoring the interpersonal events of therapy, the client’s unique personal characteristics, and his or her own behavior in a reflective way. The information is used to determine appropriate interactive styles and modes:
1. Advocating: Acting to ensure that the clients have resources needed to participate in occupations;
2. Collaborating: Facilitating autonomy and the clients’ ownership of therapy process;
3. Empathizing: Understanding and validating the clients’ lived experience;
4. Encouraging: Fostering hope and willingness to engage;
5. Instructing: Providing clear expectations and explanations about the therapy process; and
6. Problem solving: Use of reasoning and strategic questions to identify solutions.
Mode selection is first influenced by the therapist’s own personality, and then intentional use of modes is suggested as the client’s experience of mode is predominant.