Relational Therapy

Relational therapy is a therapeutic approach that was founded on the belief that a person must have fulfilling and satisfying relationships with the people around them in order to be emotionally healthy. Relational therapy handles emotional and psychological distress by looking at the client’s patterns of behavior and experiences in interpersonal relationships, taking social factors, such as race, class, culture, and gender, into account. Relational therapy can be useful in the treatment of many issues, but is especially successful when working with individuals seeking to address long-term emotional distress, particularly when that distress related to relationships. Relational therapy will help clients learn skills to create and maintain healthy relationships. Think this approach might be right for you? Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s relational therapy experts today.

Meet the specialists

Relational therapy, sometimes referred to as relational-cultural therapy, is a therapeutic approach based on the idea that mutually satisfying relationships with others are necessary for one's emotional well-being

— Elise Horwich, Marriage & Family Therapist in Tarzana, CA

So much hurt happens in relationship. Healing happens there too. The therapeutic relationship is the number one determinant of successful therapy and I use myself in the room and my relationship with each client as a top tool to move towards wellbeing.

— Emily Bonelli-Padow, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in San Francisco, CA

I graduated from The Relational Center after three intensive training years in both Relational and Gestalt therapy. I have practiced from this perspective since 2010 and I continue to receive training and experience in this area. Relational therapy is truly a place where I can teach you how to be in relation with me, and you can teach me how to be in relation to you. Through this experience, we both learn how to connect better with others and with ourselves.

— Kathryn Sills-Payne, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Intern in Oakland, CA

Relational therapy, sometimes referred to as relational-cultural therapy, is a therapeutic approach based on the idea that mutually satisfying relationships with others are necessary for one’s emotional well-being. This type of psychotherapy takes into account social factors, such as race, class, culture, and gender, and examines the power struggles and other issues that develop as a result of these factors, as well as how they relate to the relationships in a person’s life.

— Gwen Kinney, Counselor in Austin, TX

We’re all born with a built-in capacity for relating to ourselves, to others, and to our highest work — but most of us aren’t taught how to tend to that ecosystem. Instead of connecting with the deep knowing within us, we look to outside sources for guidance, acceptance, and recognition. Connectfulness® is a research-based practice I’ve developed that gets to the heart of relationship issues, helps you integrate them, and leaves you with the skills to decide how you want to show up relationally.

— Rebecca Wong, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New Paltz, NY

Relationships are potent places for us to repeat old, painful patterns or break free and create newer, healthier ways of interacting. Many of us have been hurt in relationships (family, friends, colleagues, romantic partners, etc). In therapy, the unique relationship we create together can help heal the residual wounds. It can also provide an update for what it feels like to show up as our authentic selves and be listened to, cared for, and respected, so we can take this new experience out into the world to create and sustain meaningful connections that feel aligned for us.

— Jessica Weikers, Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA

The relationship you have with your psychotherapist is often indicative of how you relate outside of the therapy office. Similar patterns and projections arise -- we use the therapeutic relationship as a way of exploring your core needs and past traumas, and ultimately as a form of healing.

— Jeffrey Kishner, Mental Health Counselor in New York, NY

Most of the wounding that brings us to therapy can be seen through the eyes of how we relate to others. And research shows that the relationship we develop with our therapist matters more than their specific therapeutic techniques. A tremendous amount of healing and growing (and challenge) can occur within the dynamics of our relationship. As a relational therapist, I will wonder how patterns in your relationship with others might be playing out between us and want to help bring those explorations consciously into our sessions.

— Lily Sloane, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA

I am a relational therapist who believes and practices that healing happens at the pace of the body and in relationship. Aligned with the wisdom of interpersonal neurobiology, I approach my work with the belief that our relationship supports and cultivates healing. In our work together, I strive to hold a generative container that welcomes and invites your healing, growth, liberation and transformation while supporting you in becoming your best, brightest self.

— horizon greene, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Seattle, WA

I often work with clients from a relational perspective which means that I look at their patterns of relating to others, and how these patterns often originate from relationships earlier in life and are based on faulty expectations on how others will behave. Their patterns of behavior that are based on these faulty expectations then create the exact behaviors that they are afraid of other people engaging in. Once people are aware of these patterns, we are able to start working on changing them.

— Ginny Kington, Psychologist in Norcross, GA

I believe the therapeutic relationship to be the crux of our work together. I am committed to building trust between us and will utilize our relationship to understand how you show up in your life. To that end, I will show up as a real person who responds to you in real time. We will also explore your relational patterns throughout your life to form more secure, healthier connections in the future.

— Laurel Meng, Psychotherapist in Chicago, IL

Relational psychotherapy is an approach that can help you recognize the role relationships play in the shaping of daily experiences. It will help you understand patterns appearing in your thoughts and feelings you have toward yourself. You and I will work together to forge a strong, collaborative, and secure relationship that can serve as a model for future relationships you wish to develop.

— Colleen Burke-Sivers, Counselor in Portland, OR

I have extensive training and experience working with relationships. I have a master's degree in marriage and family therapy and I am currently a PhD student in a program that specializes in marriage and family therapy. My dissertation and research focuses on intimate/romantic/sexual relationships

— Amber Ray, Counselor in University Heights, OH

There are 2 big pieces to relational (cultural) therapy for me. 1. I believe that everything is embedded in culture and that everything exists in relationship. I work to be humble, sensitive, and attuned to you and the broader context surrounding you. I work to focus on your relationships, your beliefs about relationships, and how you have survived and maintained relationships to support you in your therapeutic goals. 2. Therapeutic growth happens in the context of a genuine and authentic relationship that we build together. To do that, I let my personality into the room. What does that look like? Well, I am soft, warm, and deeply empathetic. I’m generally expressive and can get pretty excited. I’m goofy and often laugh at the absurdity of our world. I am not shy about the impact on my politics on my work. And I swear.

— Colette Gordon, Counselor in Portland, OR

In order to feel good about ourselves and our lives we need to have good relationships with others. Connection matters, disconnection leads to distress, authenticity is key, and the past informs the present. If we are depressed or anxious, inevitably it can be traced back to tension or breakdowns in relationships, or an inability to connect. Explores how your background and past experiences are causing you to relate to others in unhelpful ways that leave you unhappy.

— Canh Tran, Associate Clinical Social Worker in Seattle, WA

From an attachment perspective, relational is the core of everything I do. There have been studies exploring the effectiveness and efficacy of various modalities in mental health treatment, that have all pointed to this need. Unless and until we've established a positive, safe, and trustworthy relationship, nothing else matters

— Peggy Fulda, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Portland, OR

Many people find being in deep and authentic connection with others in the outside world to be terrifyingly vulnerable. I see therapy as the perfect opportunity to explore how to be in healthy relationship with a safe other. My job is to create a safe and inviting space, tailor made for you, your lived experience, and your needs each time you enter the room. Let's practice vulnerability together!

— Sam Krehel, Mental Health Counselor in Seattle, WA

With the belief that we can only be fully known in relationship, relational therapy puts special emphasis on how we show up in relationships as a tool to empower others to live more fully

— Whitney Losee, Mental Health Counselor in Seattle, WA

The relationships we have with ourselves and the important people in our lives are the cornerstones of our emotional health. From infancy and onward, how others see us and how we see them profoundly impact our sense of safety, curiosity, and agency. A relational therapy framework allows us to better see the patterns that play out in various areas of your life so that we can understand why they exist and open up new possibilities.

— Liz Gustafson, Psychologist in Los Angeles, CA

Similar to what it sounds like, I use relational therapy to build our communication and understanding so that you are able to learn and practice new skills for your own relationships. This type of therapy is a style that most people enjoy because it feels less like a "session" and more like a conversation between friends.

— Amanda Dutton, Counselor in Stockbridge, GA

There's no point in therapy if you don't trust your therapist. A good therapist won't fault you for this, nor will they ignore it. As a relational therapist, we can talk openly about what our relationship brings up for you, and how it might need to adjust. Our relationship can ideally serve as an opportunity for having a new, healing experience with someone who feels safe. This can then become a template for creating the kinds of relationships you want in your life moving forward.

— Stephanie Winn, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Portland, OR

I'm Level II Trained in Terry Real's Relational Life Therapy, and I'll be completing Level III this spring. I have seen this positively shift so many clients--whether they're coming to me with their partner or coming to me for individual work. It helps us identify the patterns, recognize how our stories are playing a role, and learn new ways to interact while honoring the kind of relationship we want to have.

— Sarah Claus, Psychotherapist in Wheat Ridge, CO

Human beings are wired for social connection. In order to feel good about ourselves and our lives we need to have good relationships with others. If we are depressed or anxious, inevitably it can be traced back to tension or breakdowns in relationships, or an inability to connect. Thus, the relationship between client and therapist is paramount to serve as a model that clients can use when building relationships outside of the therapy.

— Canh Tran, Associate Clinical Social Worker in Seattle, WA