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. The theory’s roots in feminist and psychodynamic 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.
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.
The Theory and Practice of RCT