core disciplines of relational therapy: introduction

This last spring, I flew to Seattle to participate in the final retreat of a two year, post-graduate continuing education certificate program through the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. The program – Relationally Focused Psychodynamic Therapy (RFPT) – is based on the research conducted by Dr. Roy Barsness on Relational Psychoanalysis, and the subsequent book, Core Competencies of Relational Psychoanalysis: A Guide to Practice, Study and Research.1 In the book, Barsness consolidates his research on what relational psychoanalysts do in their treatment of patients, and outlines seven core competencies or disciplines that emerged from the study.

These disciplines include (1) therapeutic intent, (2) therapeutic stance/attitude, (3) deep listening/affective attunement, (4) relational dynamic: the there and then and the here and now, (5) patterning and linking, (6) repetition and working through, and (7) courageous speech/disciplined spontaneity. The final core competency that contains all seven disciplines is love.

These seven disciplines are the focus of the RFPT program, and have become guiding practices in my work of treating patients. Through twice-yearly, in person retreats, and regular bi-weekly consultation, my cohort and I gained the opportunity to learn these disciplines experientially and emersively together. As the program came to a close this spring, the experiential learning I had gained over the past two years began to crystalize.

In order to continue the crystalization process, I have decided to write my own thoughts, reflections, and experiences with each of these disciplines in a series of posts over the next several weeks. Much much use will be made of Core Competencies as the primary text of my learning process. But I hope to organize the information through the lens of the last two years of my personal process in the program, and my work with patients.


  1. Barsness, R. (2017). Core competencies of relational psychoanalysis: A guide to practice, study and research. (First Edition). Routledge.

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