Relational Therapy

Meet the specialists

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
 

With the advent of the women's rights movement, the field of psychodynamic therapy began to evolve. Critiques of psychotherapy being male-dominate and centered around male perspective initiated the field of relational therapy. Relational therapy centers the relationship between client and therapist as the primary source of healing. It seeks to be collaborative rather than the orientation of the therapist being either a blank slate or an expert in the room. Relational therapy invites the therapist to be warm, authentic and empathic, while noticing and reflecting the client's patterns around connection and disconnection. It has also evolved to include aspects of culture, race, gender, class and sexual orientation as issues that may come up for healing in the therapeutic relationship.

— Addie Liechty, Clinical Social Worker in Oakland, CA

I believe that we heal through connection, and that the relationship between my clients and I is an opportunity to explore new ways of connecting. Challenges that can come up in interpersonal dynamics are likely to come up in our professional relationship as well, so we have the opportunity to work through those challenges together.

— Maya Grodman, Counselor in Portland, OR

Relational psychotherapy is an offshoot of psychoanalysis or psychoanalytic psychotherapy, both of which have a long and varied history going back to Sigmund Freud. As its basic premise, psychoanalysis assumes that people are often unaware of the factors that contribute to their mental and emotional state, and that uncovering these unconscious processes and assumptions leads to wellness. The way it is practiced today, there is a wide variety of approaches and styles in psychoanalysis (i.e. Freudian, Jungian, Object-Relations, Relational) that can look and feel quite different from the stereotype of the silent analyst saying only “Mmm Hmm” as the patient talks. Psychoanalysis is distinguished from psychoanalytic psychotherapy by both the frequency and setup of therapy. In psychoanalysis the patient usually comes in 2 – 5 times per week and often lays on a couch facing away from the therapist, whereas psychoanalytic psychotherapy incorporates the same theories and methodology of analysis without the same level of involvement. Psychoanalysts are required to undergo an additional educational training that often lasts for many years before being able to be called an analyst and perform analysis, whereas many therapists work from psychoanalytically-informed perspective and are well-trained in a psychoanalytic approach.

— Bear Korngold, Clinical Psychologist in San Francisco, CA
 

Relational Therapy is truly a unique approach to couples counseling. I've had couples comment on how different these sessions are compared to other couples therapy experiences and how much they appreciate it. It is direct, coaching and empowering to help couples make changes to have a strong, happy and healthy relationship. It also moves quickly! I've seen couples who have been angry for years start to love and laugh again after just a few sessions!

— Corrin Voeller, Marriage & Family Therapist in St. Louis Park, MN

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. If that sounds like a good fit for you, let’s talk!

— Colette Gordon, Counselor in Portland, OR
 

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

This approach is what I use with almost all of my clients. I love that it is directive, empowering and coaching. There are a lot of tools to teach clients about how they interact with others and how it is not serving them well to build connection. It takes into account our culture and how it fails to set us up for success relationally. As a therapist, you can take sides and lovingly confront poor behaviors to help them adjust and live more relationally which helps the client and loved ones.

— Corrin Voeller, Marriage & Family Therapist in St. Louis Park, MN
 

As humans, we need and exist in relationships; to others, to the environment, to ourselves. I believe that one of the most important aspects of my work with clients is developing a strong relationship based around safety and expression and use these experiences in therapy to help people understand the ways in which they relate to other aspects of their lives.

— Cayla Panitz, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR

Relational psychotherapy, an approach that can help individuals recognize the role relationships play in the shaping of daily experiences, attempts to help people understand patterns appearing in the thoughts and feelings they have toward themselves.

— Adrian Scharfetter, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Berkeley, CA
 

We carry hurt, fear, and rejection from early wounds that impact how we are able to reach out and connect with those we love. I will work with you to unpack how you feel about previous experiences in order to move forward and form relationships based in love, compassion, respect, and security.

— Madeline Fox, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Portland, OR

When it comes to long-term, sustainable change, therapy is one of the most effective forms of treatment. In part, because you no longer have to navigate the darkness alone. The therapy relationship is one of the most important factors for change. Yes, even more than specific modalities at times and there is ample evidence to support this. As humans, we have evolved to withstand life’s inherent traumas through interdependency. Not codependency. Interdependency. We thrive, as humans, when we can rely on and support others. And we learn how to support ourselves and others through the kind of support we’ve received. In an ideal world we would feel all our feelings and let those feelings guide us in a regulated and attuned manner. This is what healthy functioning looks like (despite cultural norms around emotions). However, we get stuck when we are left alone with unbearable emotions. This can lead to mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and the like. When left alone with unbearable emotions, we adapt in ways that may serve us in the moment, but may not be the best in the long run. For example, we may avoid feelings altogether, pick fights with our partners, become a workaholic, turn toward alcohol or other substances, etc. You get the picture. In therapy, we create a relationship (a unique one at that!) to help you bring those feelings up to be safely experienced and now responded to in the way(s) you needed before. With compassion, empathy, sincere belief, and support. This is how we release the past and free ourselves from having to “manage” all the freaking time.

— Natalia Amari, Clinical Social Worker in Austin, TX
 

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

Just as the patterns that hold you back were wired within your earliest relationships, they only transform when met with gentleness and care. Understanding the neuroscience of relationship can help you understand and transform your challenges.

— Marc Otto, Creative Art Therapist in Portland, OR
 

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

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, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA