An overview of relational-cultural theory and Relational-Cultural Therapy (RCT) is provided. First, a summary of the overarching framework for relational-cultural theory is offered.Relational-Cultural Therapy Paper The theory’s roots in feminist and psycho dynamic theories are discussed, along with distinguishing aspects of relational- cultural theory. The practice of RCT is reviewed, including research support regarding assumptions, practice applications, and effectiveness. The unique role that teaching RCT can play in building counseling competencies is explored with a focus on competencies related to therapeutic relationship- building skills and awareness of individual-cultural diversity. It is contended that RCT can provide an organized, systematic structure for the development of therapeutic relationship-building skills and a framework on which to build when asking counseling trainees to reflect on issues of power, privilege, oppression, and marginalization, including the ways in which those issues influence counseling. Specific examples are provided to illustrate the application of RCT in fostering these counseling competencies.Relational-Cultural Therapy Paper
Keywords: relational-cultural theory, counselor training, counseling competencies, cultural diversity, therapeutic relationship skills
In writing about the training and practice implications of con- textual models of therapy, Wampold (2001) emphasized that the- oretical approaches to counseling must be grounded in psycholog- ical principles and knowledge. Furthermore, there has been a recent call within professional psychology to teach and measure trainee competencies, including relationship and interpersonal skills and awareness of individual-cultural diversity (e.g., Assess- ment of Competency Benchmarks Work Group of the American Psychological Association Board of Educational Affairs, 2007; Hatcher & Lassiter, 2007; Norcross, 2010). Therefore, the overar- ching purposes of this article are to review the psychological foundations of Relational-Cultural Therapy (RCT), which is a theoretical orientation that is garnering increasing attention within the field of psychology, and to explore what the teaching of RCT has to offer in building the counseling competencies of trainees. First, the RCT framework and its empirical support will be pre- sented, followed by an exploration of teaching implications related to building counseling competencies.Relational-Cultural Therapy Paper
The Theory and Practice of RCT
Overarching framework. Above all, RCT is a feminist ther- apeutic approach. Enns (2004) outlined principles common to all approaches to feminist counseling. These principles support the welfare of all clients and include (a) privileging client perspectives and lived experiences and viewing clients as capable collaborators in moving toward strength-based change;Relational-Cultural Therapy Paper (b) emphasizing an egalitarian client-counselor relationship, along with a concurrent awareness of the impact of power differentials related to the counselor and client roles; (c) valuing diversity, with an emphasis on exploring the complexity of intersecting social and cultural identities and therapist self-reflection regarding personal privilege and its impact on the counseling process and relationship; (d) modeling and fostering personal, interpersonal, and sociopolitical empowerment (Morrow & Hawxhurst, 1998); and (e) focusing on change rather than adjustment as the goal of counseling, with an emphasis on the overlap between personal issues and broader sociopolitical and socioeconomic considerations (see Enns, 2004, pp. 19–42 for a discussion of all principles). While specific feminist theoretical orientations may vary in the degree to which each principle is emphasized (Enns, 2004), the principles provide a framework encompassing all feminist therapies, including RCT.
Although the assumptions of RCT are congruent with multicul- tural counseling (e.g., importance of interdependence, counselor self-reflection, and awareness of oppression), it is important to note that cultural competence is the foundation to providing effec- tive multicultural counseling (Sue & Sue, 2003). For instance, RCT’s focus on interdependence and contextualism is compatible with more collectivistic values.Relational-Cultural Therapy Paper In discussing the application of relational-cultural theory to African American women, Enns (2004) noted, “With sensitivity to culture and daily challenges of
LISA L. FREY, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Counseling Psychology Program at the University of Oklahoma and the Director of the University of Oklahoma Counseling Psychology Clinic. She is also a faculty member in Women’s and Gender Studies. Her professional and research interests focus on gender socialization, relational development, sexual orientation and gender expression, sexual assault, and advocacy and community en- gagement. CORRESPONDENCE CONCERNING THIS ARTICLE should be addressed to Lisa L. Frey, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Oklahoma, 820 Van Vleet Oval, Room 321, Norman, OK 73019-2041. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Relational-Cultural Therapy Paper
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