Relational–Cultural Therapy

Format: DVD [Closed Captioned]
Running Time: Over 100 minutes
Item #: 4310851
ISBN: 978-1-4338-0361-1
List Price: $99.95
Member/Affiliate Price: $69.95
Copyright: 2009
Availability: In Stock
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For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories

APA Psychotherapy Training Videos are intended solely for educational purposes for mental health professionals. Viewers are expected to treat confidential material found herein according to strict professional guidelines. Unauthorized viewing is prohibited.

In Relational–Cultural Therapy, Dr. Judith V. Jordan demonstrates and discusses this increasingly practiced approach to therapy. Relational–cultural therapy is a theory of doing therapy, as well as a developmental theory, that works on connection and disconnection in a client's life. A person's past relationships positively and negatively influence expectations--or relational images--of future relationships. People become disconnected from each other primarily because of negative relational images, and the therapist's job is to loosen the hold these negative images have on the client's present life.

In this session, Dr. Jordan works with a young woman who suffered a lot of pain surrounding the death of her father. Dr. Jordan makes use of mutual empathy, an emotionally authentic responsiveness, through which she seeks to understand the client and join her where she is in the moment.


Relational–cultural theory (RCT) emphasizes the power of relationships to create change in individuals and groups. It posits that all people begin life with a yearning for connection: They wish to participate in the growth of others and they wish to be responded to, to "matter." Suffering arises when people experience a sense of "condemned isolation," alone, outside the human community, paralyzed in their efforts to reestablish connection, and self-blaming.

When a less powerful person is hurt or misunderstood by a more powerful person and the less powerful person is not able to register their pain (i.e., their experience is invalidated or unheeded), this person learns to take that aspect of themselves out of relationships. In this way relationships become characterized by chronic disconnection and inauthenticity. Mutual growth occurs when both people are responsive to each other's messages. This is curtailed when disconnections become chronic. In more responsive contexts, acute disconnections can be reworked to create stronger and more resilient relationships.

We are not destined as human beings to grow to greater and greater autonomy and independence: Such benchmarks of growth create unrealizable standards of maturity. Rather, the natural pathway of growth is toward greater mutuality and interdependence. The overly individualistic nature of 21st-century America makes it difficult for people to embrace this necessary interdependence. Psychology has too often conspired in this emphasis on independence and separation, including its overemphasis on the "separate self."

In therapy, use of RCT leads to judicious, therapeutic authenticity on the part of the therapist, recognition of the distorting influence of power-over dynamics in human relationships, the importance of social context and privilege. There is an interest in working through disconnections toward more resilience and strengthened relational competence.

RCT has been used with many different kinds of clients: women, men, children, and people diagnosed with affective disorders and personality disorders. It has been applied less in working with psychotic populations. While it is generally used in long-term individual therapy, it has also been adapted for short-term therapy. There is a manual for using it in time-limited groups and in longer-term groups.

About the Therapist

Judith V. Jordan, PhD, is the director of the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute and founding scholar at the Stone Center at Wellesley College. In addition to her position at the Wellesley Centers for Women, Dr. Jordan is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

After graduating phi beta kappa and magna cum laude from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, Dr. Jordan earned her PhD in clinical psychology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she received special commendation for outstanding academic performance.

She was the director of psychology training as well as the director of the Women's Studies program at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Teaching Hospital. For the past 20 years she has worked with her colleagues Jean Baker Miller, Irene Stiver, and Jan Surrey on the development of what has come to be known as relational–cultural theory.

Dr. Jordan coauthored the book Women's Growth in Connection and edited Women's Growth in Diversity and The Complexity of Connection. She has published over 40 original reports and 25 chapters, and coauthored three books.

She is the recipient of the Massachusetts Psychology Association's Career Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Advancement of Psychology as a Science and a Profession. She was also selected as the Mary Margaret Voorhees Distinguished Professor at the Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Science in the spring of 1999. She received the annual psychiatric resident's "outstanding teacher of the year" award at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, and is included in Who's Who in America. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2001 from New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, with "utmost admiration for [her] contribution to science and the practice of psychology." In 2002, Dr. Jordan also received a Special Award from the Feminist Therapy Institute "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the development of feminist psychology."

She is on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session and the Journal of Creativity and Mental Health. She has written, lectured and conducted workshops nationally and internationally on the subjects of women's psychological development, gender differences, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, empathy, psychotherapy, marginality, diversity, mutuality, courage, competence and connection, women's sexuality, gender issues in the workplace, relational practice in the workplace, new models of leadership, traumatic disconnections, conflict and competition, and relational model of self. Dr. Jordan frequently serves as a resource for the press on these issues and has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Dr. Jordan believes that the existing structures of psychology characterized by a separate-self model of development are destructive to the fabric of community and misrepresent women's experience in particular. By carefully studying women's lives and women's struggles, she hopes to help create new models of human development, which might transform some of the current distorting impact of competition, hyper-individualism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism. While most of her early work arose in the context of the practice of psychotherapy, Dr. Jordan is increasingly applying this work to organizations and to bringing about social change

Suggested Readings
  • Jordan, J., Kaplan, A., Miller, J. B., Stiver, I., & Surrey, J. (1991). Women's growth in connection. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Jordan, J. (Ed.). (1997). Women's growth in diversity. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Jordan, J., Walker, M., & Hartling, L. (2004). The complexity of connection. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Jordan, J., & Dooley, C. (2000). Relational practice in action: A group manual. Wellesley, MA: Stone Center Project Report No 6.
  • Miller, J. B. (1976). Toward a new psychology of women. Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Miller, J. B., & Stiver, I. (1997). The healing connection: How women form relationships in therapy and in life. Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Walker, M., & Rosen, W. (2004). How connections heal. New York: Guilford.
  • Works in progress, No. 1–104. (1981–2007). Wellesley, MA: Stone Center Working Paper Series.

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