Assumptions and Implications of Relational Theory

Relational Theory

Assumptions and Implications of the Relational Theory

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Relational theory aligns with traditional views of social work. This theory has special significance on relationships and the settings that women attest to. In the recent times, researchers and psychologist have perceived the dissimilarities in mental development between men and women (Saari, 2005). A key conclusion is that women strongly emphasize on relationships whereas men lay emphasis on individuation (Quinn and Grumbach, 2015). One of the main assumptions of the relational theory is the intrinsically and innately social nature of human beings. Based on the belief that people are socially founded and instituted by associations, relational theory seeks to understand the complication behind the formation of relationships (Mccauley, 2013). In particular, the relational theory puts forward that the relational nature of us as human beings’ steers and instigates us to grow and develop through and in the direction of connection. As pointed out by Mccauley (2013), the term growth-fostering relationships were devised to signify relationships in which lively involvement by all parties results in mutual development. These kinds of relationships add to healthy operating and thriving environments. On the basis of this assumption, growth-fostering relationships take into account five key elements, which include energy, increased sense of worth, productivity, clarity and aspiration for higher, more improved values (Mccauley, 2013).

Another assumption within the relational theory is that as human beings we grow in the direction of an increase capability for respect, having an influence on the other, being open to being altered by the other in developing these sorts of relationships. In particular, growth-fostering relationships necessitate mutuality, which posits the collective hands-on progression of relationships, instead of signifying uniformity or impartiality between individuals. The relational theory also recognizes the actuality of multiplicity and inevitability of power disparities, while unfolding a track not only in the direction of healthy cohabitation, but also mutual enablement (Mccauley, 2013). The implication of these supposition lies in the belief that its absence lead to the development of mental issues and adds to the rise of vicious and intense conflict. The relational theory stresses that experiences of disconnection that interrupt or inhibit the intricately relational nature of human beings contributes to a state of human anguish and misery. On the other hand, experiences that support the determination of human beings in the direction of connection result in amplified pro-social behavior. This notion of mutuality has numerous implications for conflict resolution, for instance the imperative need for healthy reconnection (Mccauley, 2013).

How Relationships Fit in with the Relational Theory

Relationships fit in with relational theory in various ways. One of these ways is through a significant component of relational theory that takes into attachment styles, how they develop, and how they continue to impact people in the course of their lives. The style of attachment of us as human beings has an influence on all aspects, ranging from the choosing a partner to how well our relationships advance, unfortunately, to even how they come to a demise. As such, acknowledging the attachment pattern of us as individuals can aid in understanding our strong suits and susceptibilities in a relationship (Firestone, 2013). A pattern of attachment is instituted in early childhood attachments and in turn continues to operate as a working model for relationships in maturity. According to Firestone (2013), the model of attachment affects the manner in which all individuals respond to their needs and the actions that an individual undertakes to meet such needs. In particular, when there is a secure attachment pattern, an individual is self-confident and self-assured and has the capacity to interrelate easily with others, meeting the needs of an individual as well as those of others. Conversely, when there is an apprehension or avoidant attachment pattern, and an individual selects a partner that is fitting and suitable to that maladaptive pattern, then he or she will most probably be selecting a person who is not the suitable choice to make him or her content (Firestone, 2013).


Attachment in adults can be learnt through attachment styles to understand how they affect their relation with others. In light of secure attachment, adults that are securely attached have a tendency of being more content in their relationships. The children also exhibit similar contentment as they consider their parents to be a secure foundation, from which they can go forth and explore the world by themselves. Secure adults provide support and comfort in times of misery and worry. On the other hand, different from secure attachment, individuals with anxious preoccupied attachment have a tendency of being anxious to form a relationship. They are usually not inclined to seek rescue and completion from other people. In turn, despite the fact that they are constantly seeking some sort of safety from their partners in the relationship by being dependent and insecure, such actions result in pushing their partner further away (Firestone, 2013).

Dismissive Avoidant

Dismissive avoidant attachment encompasses individuals that tend to emotionally distance themselves in relation to others. They have a preference of being in isolation and are usually perceived as being focused on themselves. As a result, they lead lives that are more private, refute the significance of their loved ones and easily detach from them. Normally, in relation to others, they have the capacity to shut down their emotions, not feel anything or have any reactions. For instance, their response in a distressing time in a relationship would be “I do not care.” Fearful avoidant attachment encompasses individuals that subsist in a state of ambivalence. In this state, a person is in fear of being too close as well as being too distant in relation to others. They endeavor to sustain their feelings but are unable to evade their anxiety or flee away from their feelings. In terms of relating to others, they perceive that they have to go to others to meet their needs, but also have the view that if they get close to others, they will end up being hurt. In the end, their relationships tend to have numerous highs and lows (Firestone, 2013).

Considered Opportunities to Apply in this Approach

There are numerous deemed opportunities in the application of relational theory. In delineation, relational theory is in agreement with customary social work standpoints, especially the significance of relationships and the settings that impact women. Therefore, the theory can be employed to analyze the cultural dissimilarities in treatment, particularly in relation to gender-specific models for women. A good example is how women in correctional facilities are treated by the justice system. This is in relation to treatment of psychological issues such as trauma and stress (Quinn and Grumbach, 2015).

Social Justice and Cultural Competencies

The application of relational theory to aiding and healing is based and founded on the notion that healing takes place in the framework of equally empathic, growth-enabling relationships. An example of practical concern is the issue of social justice and cultural competence. First, this is through ascertaining how related and socio-cultural challenges hinder the capability of individuals to generate, maintain, and take part in relationships and associations that foster growth in therapy and life (Comstock et al., 2008). Secondly, relational theory influences social justice and cultural competence by enlightening and revealing the intricacies of human development by offering an extensive and spread-out assessment of the development of social and interactive capabilities over the lifetime (Comstock et al., 2008). In addition, relational theory supplements the effort of social justice and cultural competencies by acting as a substitute theoretical context from which experts and specialists in psychological health can discover and delve into how issues associated to power, sidelining, domination, and subservience have an influence on the psychological health and relational development of all those concerned and affected (Comstock et al., 2008). In an endeavor to form these sorts of relationships, the relational theory approach to therapy encompasses ascertaining and reviewing impediments to mutuality that people face and experience in diverse relational settings and systems (Comstock et al., 2008).

Limitations or Issues for Culture

Relational theory has numerous strong suits, the most prevalent being its postmodern constructivist method. However, the theory does have its own limitations. One of the limitations of the relational theory or issue of culture is the lack of ability of practitioners to address the distinctive needs of women of color using fitting and suitable theories and interventions (Sanchez-Burks et al., 2007). This is largely because it can easily result in a stiff and inflexible application of the theory, prospective lack of connection and even untimely cessation of the helping relationship with the practitioner owing to an incapability of connecting in a free flowing manner. The downside is that it is imperative to have a differential application, as it is required to politely participate with women of diverse upbringings and settings in nurturing, thriving, and helpful relationships (Quinn and Grumbach, 2015).

Why I Chose Relational Theory

The reason why I choose the relational theory is due to its diverse applicability. In particular, with regard to psychological development, the relational theory makes it possible to understand what individuals need. A major aspect to take into consideration is recognizing and acknowledging the fact that men and women have different psychological development. A good example is women in the correctional facilities and the incessant neglecting that they face in the society. It is imperative to note that the needs of women are more often than not quite dissimilar compared to the needs of men. Therefore, through this particular theory, it becomes possible to understand what growth-fostering relationships are, as well as the different gender-specific needs for human beings. In addition, through the relational theory, it is possible to explore and understand the different experiences of individuals during childhood as well as during adulthood, and how such experiences have an impact on their behavior. Similarly, from a psychological standpoint, through the framework proposed by relational theory, it becomes possible to perceive the best treatment option of the issues that different individuals deal with. It then becomes possible to apply the relational theory in understanding what such women need from the societal system and how different issues such as trauma and addiction can be best treated. For instance, in this case it becomes possible to understand that mutuality and empathy generate women empowerment, but not necessarily over other individuals, but rather together with them. In having such mutual empowering relationships, every individual is able to grow stronger mentally. In conclusion, this theory was chosen as it endeavors to co-create the comprehension of the context of women’s different experiences. The theory has amplified feminist theory in manners that help different fields with a better and more expansive fit of explanatory ideas around the treatment of women. Most significantly, it has increased and enlarged the societal perspective of the needs of women in treatment centers.


Comstock, D. L., Hammer, T. R., Strentzsch, J., Cannon, K., Parsons, J., & II, G. S. (2008). Relational-cultural theory: A framework for bridging relational, multicultural, and social justice competencies. Journal of Counseling & Development, 86(3), 279-287.

Firestone, L. (2013). How Your Attachment Style Impacts Your Relationship: What is your attachment style? Psychology Today.

McCauley, M. (2013). Relational-Cultural Theory: Fostering Healthy Coexistence Through a Relational Lens. Beyond Intractability. Retrieved from:

Quinn, C. R., &Grumbach, G. (2015). Critical Race Theory and the Limits of Relational Theory in Social Work with Women. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 24(3), 202-218.

Saari, C. (2005). The contribution of relational theory to social work practice. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 75(3), 3 — 14.

Sanchez-Burks, J., Lee, F., Nisbett, R., & Ybarra, O. (2007). Cultural training based on a theory of relational ideology. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 29(3), 257-268.

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