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Relational Cultural Theory Essay

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Updated: Apr 18th, 2021


The relational cultural theory refers to a branch of psychology that deals with human relations. The theory states that it is important for society to sustain relationships that promote growth (Walker, 2004). According to the theory, growth applies if people create inclusive relationships that support joint success rather than individual autonomy and disconnection from society. In addition, relational cultural theory singles out individual isolation as the origin of human anguish. It is important to have genuine and reciprocated relationships because they outline how someone feels about themselves and others (Walker, 2004).

The theory also identifies the consequences of relationships that promote growth. First, there is a sense of enthusiasm because of relating to others. The second consequence is improved self-awareness. Through inclusive relationships, people get to learn more about themselves. The third consequence is an augmented understanding of appeal (Walker, 2004). Other consequences explained to include a longing for supplementary relations and an incentive to seize control of associations. From the consequences, it is clear that isolation from other people can cause psychological and physical challenges to affected individuals (walker, 2004).

If people approach their needs through growth-oriented associations, the obliteration caused by segregation and the remedy caused by inclusive associations become visible. The relational cultural theory explains that oneโ€™s feelings do not apply as indicators of personality (Walker, 2004). This essay seeks to identify the fundamental assumptions of relational cultural theory, how the theory differs from the old psychology of men and women, as well as how it relates to social work.

Fundamental Assumptions

The relational cultural theory applies two assumptions relating to human life. The basic assumption is that people can succeed if they engage in associations that encourage intensification (Walker, 2004). The theory supports association units, where all members labor collectively to realize success. Diversity is crucial in achieving high levels of success. Identifying and exploiting different abilities of members in a society often results in desired results.

Different individual abilities should strengthen a team rather than make it weak. The second assumption of relational cultural theory is that experiences such as segregation infringe on associations, cause human distress, and intimidate continued human existence (Walker, 2004). Associations normally involve at least two individuals or parties. Therefore, when certain people or groups end up isolated, the relational cycle often breaks, as certain gaps remain unattended (walker, 2004). We all need each other, albeit differently, because God has given everyone a different ability. Management of human resources often applies effectively in groups and teams with specified goals (Walker, 2004).

How the Theory Differs From Traditional Approach to Psychology

There are several differences identifiable from the relational cultural theory compared to the traditional approach to the psychology of men and women. The treatment accorded to men and women in the old psychology is different from the idea expressed in the rational cultural theory (Jordan, 2009). The old psychology identifies men as superior to women, while relational cultural theory considers people as equal, worth of respect, and free of discrimination (Jordan, 2009).

The old psychology also never considered intelligence among women who experienced hate from men, as they were dependent on them. This made women appear worthless compared to men, thus lacked any roles in the development agendas of their communities. However, relational cultural theory changed all these beliefs as it championed inclusive relations that appreciated equality as a crucial element for growth (Jordan, 2009).

This also discourages the independence of individuals because it may result in isolation from their communities, thus affecting the development of success-oriented relations. The theory discourages all forms of discrimination as men and women ought to receive equal treatment in all interactions in order to achieve success (Jordan, 2009).

Critical Assessment of Relational Cultural Theory

From a critical point of view, the relational cultural theory applies as a supporter of reciprocated authorization among all individuals that apply it (Jordan, 2009). The theory discourages any human aspects that may result in failure, as relationships ought to focus on achieving growth and success (Jordan, 2009).

The theory teaches that the participation of individuals towards growth within a group is important, and individual assessment should focus on character and personality instead of factors such as age, gender, and cultural background. The relational cultural theory implies that an interconnected society has the potential for existence; if people treat each other equally by considering what everyone can offer in terms of achieving success and experiencing growth (Jordan, 2009). Togetherness is crucial in achieving success because of the sustainable exploitation of resources.

The connection between Ideas of the Theory, Social Work Values, and Health

The ideas explained in the relational cultural theory have some connection to the underlying values addressed in social work. One of the values upheld in social work is social justice (Turner, 2011). This value has some connection with the emphasis of the relational cultural theory of creating a society in which everyone receives equal treatment regardless of different individual abilities. Both relational cultural theory and social work support equality and emphasize its importance in achieving success.

Another value that connects social work with the theory is individual integrity (Turner, 2011). Success in both social work and relational cultural theory happens if all individuals involved in interactions bear integrity in treating everyone with respect. This involves emotional intelligence on the part of everyone by understanding the feeling of those they relate with as well as understanding how individual feelings can affect others.

Another value that connects social work with the theory is the spirit of togetherness (Turner, 2011). Social work ensures that people living in society bring all their resources together and keep their differences apart for the sake of joint success and growth. The relational cultural theory also emphasizes the importance of having healthy connections within a society so that no one feels excluded from the development agenda because of their incapacities (Turner, 2011).

Relational cultural theory values also connect with health as a human right. The spirit of working together emphasized in theory applies to making sure that when human rights are violated, people have the potential to fight back. Health is one of the fundamental human rights that apply to all members of a society (Turner, 2011). Therefore, if people chose to work together without focusing on their differences, it is possible to get back all the privileges denied to them. This creates a sense of responsibility among all members of society, as they understand their responsibilities towards each other (Turner, 2011). This spirit empowers people to take full control of their destiny and the provision of basic human rights (Turner, 2011).

How Relational Cultural Theory can guide Social Work Practice

Relational cultural theory can offer great guidance to social work practice through its values. First, the spirit of togetherness emphasized by the theory is applicable in social work by working together with unprivileged members of the society as a form of joint responsibility. The value of maintaining connection within a society is applicable in social work, as it will ensure that society holds out the importance of inclusive relations that do not exclude anyone from the society for lack of something (Turner, 2011).

Relational cultural theory discourages dominance from certain members in a society, a value that is applicable in social work. This is because it allows the utmost interaction between social workers and the people to whom they offer their services. This level of interaction improves esteem levels among members of society, as they will be at ease sharing their needs and expectations with the social workers (Turner, 2011). The orientation of relational cultural theory is sustaining relationships that promote growth. Social workers can also reorient their activities to establish such kind of relationships to gain a better knowledge of societal needs and the best ways of responding to them.

Establishing these relationships also helps to improve the satisfaction social workers receive from their work as they enjoy a progressive relationship with the society in terms of meeting their needs and supporting their growth agenda (Turner, 2011). Social work improves the capacity of individuals by empowering them to take control of their lives by working with others. It emphasizes the benefits of the social aspect of life in achieving success and experiencing growth. Therefore, integrating the ideas of relational cultural theory into social work should have positive effects.


Jordan, J. (2009). The Power of Connection: Recent Developments in Relational Cultural Theory. California: Routledge Publishers.

Turner, F. (2011). Social Work Treatment: Interlocking Theoretical Approaches. New York: Oxford University Press.

Walker, M. (2004). How Connections Heal: Stories from Relational-Cultural Therapy. New York: Guilford Press.

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