Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Relational-Cultural Theory and Supervision: Evaluating Developmental Relational Counseling

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Relational-Cultural Theory and Supervision: Evaluating Developmental Relational Counseling

Article excerpt

Considering that the therapeutic relationship is central to counseling success (Norcross & Wampold, 2011), and given the relational focus of the 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling's definition of counseling (Kaplan & Gladding, 2011), identifying theories that guide professional counselors and supervisors in forming professional relationships is particularly important. Effective supervisory relationships influence supervisees' clinical skills and competence with clients (Inman & Ladany, 2008). Thus, the quality of the supervisory relationship shapes supervisees' professional growth and counseling practice (Friedlander, Siegel, & Brenock, 1989; Ladany, Mori, & Mehr, 2013). As supervisees experience growth-fostering (Jordan, 2010) supervisory relationships, they learn important relational skills that can transfer to the counselor-client relationship (Friedlander et al., 1989; Ladany et al., 2013). However, despite the centrality of relationships in supervision, researchers noted a substantial lack of literature focused on supervisor relational behaviors (Ladany et al, 2013) and called for additional research into supervision dynamics and relationships. Although many theories of supervision exist (Bradley & Ladany, 2001), relational-cultural theory (RCT; Jordan, 2001, 2011,2014) provides supervisors and counselors with a model for human growth and development that is applicable in both supervision and counseling practice.

RCT developed as an alternative to traditional models of human growth that identify autonomy as the cornerstone to growth (Comstock, Duffey, & St. George, 2003; Duffey & Somody, 2011; Jordan, 2010). In contrast to these models, RCT posits that growth develops in relationship with others and provides a contextual, cultural, and strength-based paradigm (Jordan, 2010, 2011, 2014). RCT is a relational model with various implications for counselor supervision and serves as a foundation for developmental relational counseling (DRC). DRC delineates and defines nuances of connection and disconnection in personal and professional relationships (Duffey & Haberstroh, 2012, 2014). This article briefly overviews the main tenets of RCT and DRC and reports the results of a randomized study evaluating supervisory relational health as defined by DRC theoretical constructs.

RCT as a Foundation for Professional Relationships

Relational-cultural theorists believe that individuals grow through relationships with others (Jordan, 2008). As people navigate the various connections, disconnections, and reconnections in their lives, they become more relationally competent (Jordan, 2010, 2011, 2014). Relational growth is experienced through the interplay among mutuality, engagement, and authenticity (Jordan & Carlson, 2013; Surrey & Jordan, 2012). The key assumptions of RCT provide supervisors with a progressive conceptualization of relationships. RCT theorists contend that

1. People grow through and toward relationship throughout the lifespan.

2. Movement toward mutuality, rather than movement toward separation, characterizes mature functioning.

3. Relational differentiation and elaboration characterize growth.

4. Mutual empathy and mutual empowerment are at the core of growth-fostering relationships.

5. In growth-fostering relationships, all people contribute and grow or benefit; development is not a one-way street.

6. Therapy relationships are characterized by a special kind of mutuality.

7. Mutual empathy is the vehicle for change in therapy.

8. Real engagement and therapeutic authenticity are necessary for the development of mutual empathy (Jordan, 2000, p. 1007).

RCT is a progressive theory. For example, relational elaboration and differentiation are concepts that define human development in relational terms rather than defining development as a process of separation. …

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