Has Relational Work Been Finally Validated by Mainstream Psychology?

Mainstream Western psychological theories tend to depict human development as a trajectory from dependence to independence. In these models, the “job” of parenting is to bring the helpless, dependent baby into a state of autonomous and independent adulthood. In contrast, relational-cultural theory (RCT) is built on the premise that, throughout the lifespan, human beings grow through and toward connection. It holds that we need connections to flourish, even to stay alive, and isolation is a major source of suffering for people, at both a personal and cultural level.”

—Judith V. Jordan, Relational-Cultural Therapy, 2018

Amen to that. We don’t grow so much in isolation. We need each other. We’re hardwired biologically for connection. So glad to see there are now mainstream theories being accepted, a position I have likewise developed from my own many years of working with people.

I have had issues in my own life and working with others with the old model of increasing independence which produces increasing isolation, which are espoused by both traditional therapy AND many New Age approaches that focus solely on the ‘self.’ I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who are working towards perfect enlightenment or honing their Law of Attraction skills also isolate themselves from community and people who are not of a high enough or clear enough vibration, instead of learning true differentiation from others relationally. True differentiation allows us to stay strong in our center no matter who we are with – a reactive person, a friend who is having a hard time, or a family member who used to trigger us.

Reaching back and looking at healthier societies in the past, and borrowing from our tribal ancestors, it has appeared to me that our Western psychology of sever and abandon in order to claim a new life has the fall out in mental illness, isolation, and ignored and forgotten olders who never learn to be elders. 

To me, learning to be in connection and working together can be hard, but it allows a group, family cluster, tribe, or society evolve as a whole. Evolving individuals is great but inviting everyone to evolve is better – for our own lives, those we know and love, our communities, and for all of humanity if it trickles outwards.



By Mardi Storm

Healer, therapist, artist, supporting others professionally since 2002. Working in community settings and private practice, offering private and group work. My art has been published and is on public display.

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