The principles of relational psychotherapy are drawn from self psychology, attachment theory, intersubjectivity theory, relational psychoanalysis, psychodynamic developmental theory, trauma theory, and feminist theories of psychotherapy1.
Relational Psychotherapy tries to identify the core beliefs that the client carries about what it feels like to be in relationship with others. It believes that painful interactions, past and present, engender the client's bad feelings and unconstructive behaviours. Similarly, the client feels good and constructs productive behaviours because of supportive and enlivening relationships2. Relational Psychotherapy focuses on changing negative core beliefs within a therapeutic relationship. As negative core beliefs change, so too will unhelpful behaviours.
As the client's patterns and sense of self change within the therapeutic relationship, they start noticing changes in their patterns of relating outside of the therapeutic setting. These “new self-with-other experiences will give the client more freedom and support than [they] had before…[will allow them] more self-expression, more joy and pride, and a firmer sense of [themselves, their] goals and [their] principles”3. Relational psychotherapy's goal is not to change the client; rather, it is to help the client uncover who they are and to reveal how they can live authentically within relationships and contexts that support and sustain them.
- DeYoung, Patricia A. (2003). Relational Psychotherapy: A Primer. New York: Brunner –Routledge.
- DeYoung, P., 2003, p. 20