Relational theory challenges some of conventional psychology’s notions of self, autonomy, independence, individuation and competition. Relational theory proposes that a central human necessity is the establishment of authentic and mutual connection in relationship. Disconnection in relationship is the source of psychological problems.
As a Relational Therapist, the objective is to work with clients to develop an understanding of themselves so that they are better able to experience psychological well being through growth fostering relationships. Often the therapeutic relationship itself becomes a model for clients to use for healing in other important relationships in their lives.
A Relational/Cultural Therapist work always includes an understanding of the context in which we live our lives. Expectations of our selves and others are informed by the cultural in which we live.
The Five Good Things by Jean Baker Miller, M.D. Growth fostering relationships empower all people involved in them. They are defined by:
- A sense of zest or well being that comes from connecting with another person;
- The ability and motivation to take action in the relationship as well as in other situations;
- Increased knowledge of oneself and the other person;
- An increased sense of worth;
- A desire for more connections beyond the particular one.
When a relationship is not characterized by connection (mutual empathy and empowerment), individuals experience the reverse of the Five Good Things:
- A decreased sense of vitality because of feeling less connected and more alone in a difficult experience;
- Inability to take action in relationship (accompanied by the sense that action out of one’s feelings will lead to destructive or bad consequences);
- More confusion in relationship, lessened knowledge of ourselves and others;
- Diminished sense of self worth;
- Turning away from others and increased isolation.