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Since the 1970s, when Jean Baker-Miller published Toward a New Psychology of Women, Relational-Cultural Theory has spawned a large and interdisciplinary body of scholarship. Scholars and practitioners from around the world continue to contribute to this growing body of work, and accordingly, we refresh this bibliography on a regular basis.

Works In Progress

Work In Progress is a publication series developed by the two organizations that were the precursors to the International Center for Growth in Connection: the Stone Center and the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, both at Wellesley College, The notion of “work in progress” signals that all ideas are dynamic, not static, and that it is important to exchange ideas while they are being developed. Many of these papers are intended to stimulate discussion and dialogue, while others are in the form of finished research reports. There are more than one hundred papers; they are listed below, beginning with the most recent.

Language of RCT


The capacity to bring one’s real experience, feelings, and thoughts into relationship, with sensitivity to and awareness of the possible impact on others of one’s actions. It does not give license to total reactivity (what we might call amygdala authenticity). Authenticity does not involve telling the “whole truth” but rather shar­ing the “one true thing” that will move the therapy in some positive way. Relational authenticity arises in the context of a relationship and is guided by the intention to participate in a growth-fostering rela­tionship. Anticipatory empathy guides the authentic responsiveness of the therapist or helping person. In the course of getting to know the client and paying careful attention, the therapist develops empathic attunement that leads to an anticipation of the possible impact of his or her interventions on the client. This allows the client to experi­ence growth-fostering connection, a sense of “mattering”; he or she experiences firsthand a responsive, intentional growth-fostering rela­tionship. Anticipatory empathy also occurs in relationships outside therapy and leads to an overall pattern of responsiveness rather than reactivity and confirms the sense that one is being listened to and understood.

Central Relational Paradox

In the face of repeated disconnections, people yearn even more for relationship, but their fear of engaging with others leads to keeping aspects of their experience out of connection (these are protective strategies of disconnection, also known as strategies of survival). Individuals alter themselves to fit in with the expectations and wishes of the other person, and in the pro­cess, the relationship itself loses authenticity and mutuality, becoming another source of disconnection.


Although this term is used in common place parlance to mean any kind of relationship, RCT defines connection as an inter­action between two or more people that is mutually empathic and mutually empowering. It involves emotional accessibility and leads to the “five good things” (zest, worth, productivity, clarity, and desire for more connection).

Chronic Disconnection

Interactions in relationships where mutual empathy and mutual empowerment do not occur; usually involves dis­appointment, a sense of being misunderstood, and sometimes a sense of danger, violation, and/or impasse. Disconnections may be acute, chronic, or traumatic.

Controlling Images

Images constructed by the dominant group that represent distortions of the dominant cultural group being depicted, with the intent of disempowering them. The phrase was coined by Patricia Hill Collins ( 1990 ), who noted, “People become objectified to certain categories such as race, gender, economic class and sexual orientation.


A complex affective-cognitive skill that allows us to “know” (resonate, feel, sense, cognitively grasp) another person’s experience. For empathy to stimulate growth, the person usually thought of as the one being empathized with must see, know, and feel the empathy of the other. That is, she or he must see her or his impact on the other; this mutual empathy decreases the experience of isolation.

Fluid Expertise

Honoring the idea that both people bring wisdom and knowledge to an exchange; this supports the notion of mutual growth and respect.

Growth-Fostering Relationship

A fundamental and complex process of active participation in the development and growth of other people and the relationship that results in mutual development (Miller & Stiver, 1997); such a relationship creates growth in both (or more) people.

Honoring Strategies of Disconnection

Empathizing with an individual’s strategies for avoiding connection, which includes being sensitive to her or his need for these strategies and the terror of being without them. These strategies are ways of staying out of connection because the only relationship that had been available was, in some fundamental way, disconnecting and violating; in other words, there was a good reason to develop the strategies.


The concept in RCT suggesting that we grow toward an increased capacity for respect, having an impact on the other, and being open to being changed by the other. Jean Baker Miller’s claim that if in a relationship both people are not growing, neither person is growing has been a controversial concept because some have cri­tiqued RCT as encouraging the client to take care of the professional. RCT fully recognizes the responsibility of the clinician to pay atten­tion to the growth of the client and not to invite care-taking from the client. But if the therapist does not open herself or himself to some impact and change (vulnerability), real growth will probably not occur for the client. Mutuality does not mean sameness, equality, or reciprocity; it is a way of relating, a shared activity in which each ( or all) of the people involved are participating as fully as possible

Power Over

A concept in many societies that people can only feel safe and productive if they exercise power over others, keeping the others in a less advantaged position. The dominant group exercises power over other groups and individuals and does not encourage mutually empowering relationships. This model leads to disconnections and violations of relationships.

Power With

The concept that more can be accomplished through collaborative efforts than through hierarchical arrangements, building on the notion that creativity and action develop in good connections. “Power with” grows as it empowers others and stands in opposition to “power over,” which accrues through directing and controlling others.

Relational Awareness

Being attentive to one’s own experience, the other person, and the relationship and developing clarity about lite movement of relationship.

Relational Images

Inner pictures of what has happened to us in relationships, formed in important early relationships. As we develop these images, we are also creating a set of beliefs about why relation­ships are the way they are. Relational images thus determine expec­tations not only about what will occur in relationships but about a person’s whole sense of herself or himself. They often become the unconscious frameworks by which we determine who we are, what we can do, and how worthwhile we are. Negative relational images become the source of a sense of lack of relational competence and worth and often support strategies of disconnection and a sense of hopelessness.

Strategies of Disconnection

Methods people develop to stay out of relationship to prevent wounding or violation. Also known as strategies of survival*, these evolve out of a person’s attempt to find some way to make or preserve whatever connection is possible.

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