Relational Cultural Practice

When we connect through growth-fostering relationships, we develop relational competence. In relationships where there tends to be a power imbalance (such as professional and client) it is important to pay attention to how we are relating and how power plays a role in our communications and explore imbalances in power and privilege. 

When there is disconnection, people may feel a denial of their perspective and in response they may begin to keep their experiences to themselves. This can result in diminished sense of vitality, empowerment, worth, and desire for connection. Disconnection also occurs at the sociocultural level when we categorize, stereotype, and stratify people. When we impose our own cultural world views without seeking to understand another’s perspective, we may be acting from racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism. 

By understanding another person’s culture, we create connection and growth-fostering relationships. These relationships are created through mutual empathy (the ability to understand another’s thoughts/feelings) and mutual empowerment (ability to take action).

Five positive things of growth-fostering relationships are (1):

  1. Increased vitality
  2. Empowerment: Increased ability to take action
  3. Develop a clearer picture of one’s self, the other, and the relationship
  4. Strengthened sense of worth


  1. Jordan, J.V., & Hartling, L.M. (2002). New Developments in Relational-Cultural Theory. In M. Ballou & L.S. Brown (Eds.), Rethinking Mental Health and Disorders: Feminist Perspectives (pp. 48-70). New York: Guilford Publications.