Clinical Foundations: A brief history of relational practice

Boden-Stuart, Zoë and Wilcox, Charlotte (2024). Clinical Foundations: A brief history of relational practice. In: Boden-Stuart, Zoë and Larkin, Michael eds. Relationships and Mental Health: Relational experience in distress and recovery. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


This chapter traces a brief history of relational practice in the clinical context of distress and recovery. Starting with psychotherapeutic theory and the centrality of the therapeutic relationship, we explore how relational thinking has, and has not, been taken up by contemporary adult mental health practice and policy. The chapter argues that contemporary conceptions of the person as individual and independent have resulted in services that, on the whole, no longer recognise the essential role of interdependency, nor fully embrace the opportunity that relationships offer for interventions that can make a lasting difference. We look at alternative and innovative examples of relational interventions, including therapeutic communities, Open Dialogue, and peer-led interventions like Hearing Voices groups. We then conclude by considering how well relational thinking has been integrated into mainstream mental health settings and where practice may go from here.

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