Benefits And Theories Behind Relational Life Therapy (RLT)

Relational Life Therapy

Relationship challenges can be incredibly difficult to navigate, whether you’re struggling with issues in a romantic partnership, family relationship, or friendship. While traditional therapy can help individuals work through personal issues, it may not always address the specific challenges that arise in relationships. This is where Relational Life Therapy (RLT) comes in. In this blog, we’ll explore the background and theory behind RLT, how it’s delivered, and the benefits it offers to clients. If you’re struggling with relationship issues, RLT could be the solution you’re looking for.

What Is Relational Life Therapy?

What Is Relational Life Therapy?Relational Life Therapy (RLT) is a therapy that focuses on how individuals experience and engage in relationships. RLT emphasizes the importance of emotional connection and the impact of past experiences on current relationships. The goal of RLT is to help individuals develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their partners, communicate effectively, and build stronger, more fulfilling relationships.

Theory Behind Relational Life Therapy

Relational Life Therapy (RLT) was developed by Terry Real, a therapist, and author, who drew on various theories and practices in psychology and therapy to create his approach. RLT believes that relationships are fundamental to human experience and that people’s past relational experiences often shape their present relationships.

The theoretical underpinnings of RLT include:

  • Psychodynamic theory: RLT draws heavily from psychodynamic theory, which posits that early experiences and relationships with caregivers shape an individual’s psychological development and can influence adult behavior and relationships.
  • Attachment theory: It emphasizes the importance of attachment relationships in shaping an individual’s sense of self and their ability to form relationships with others, which is also central to RLT. RLT recognizes that attachment styles developed in childhood can continue to affect an individual’s adult relationships.
  • Family systems theory: It focuses on the interactions between individuals within a family unit and how these interactions affect the entire system, this is another influential theory in RLT. RLT recognizes that individuals bring their family dynamics and patterns of behavior into their adult relationships.

How Is Relational Life Therapy Different?

Relational Life Therapy (RLT) differs from traditional therapy in several ways:

Focus on relationships

Focus on relationshipsIn RLT, the focus is on understanding and addressing relational patterns and dynamics that may be causing problems in the client’s life. This means that therapy sessions often involve discussions about past and present relationships, including family relationships, romantic relationships, friendships, and professional relationships. It helps to identify patterns and dynamics that may be causing distress or leading to unhealthy relationship behaviors.

Active engagement

RLT therapists often take a more active and directive approach, encouraging clients to take an active role in their therapy sessions. Clients are encouraged to express their emotions and to engage in dialogue with the therapist and their partner (if in couples therapy). The therapist may also offer guidance and direction, providing practical tools and techniques to help clients improve their communication and relationships. In contrast, traditional therapy may be more passive, with the therapist taking a more non-directive approach, allowing the client to lead the conversation.

Emphasis on emotional experience

In RLT, the therapist helps clients recognize and express their emotions, both in themselves and in their partners. Emotions are seen as important indicators of underlying needs and desires, and the therapist may work with clients to develop strategies for expressing emotions in healthy ways. This emotional focus helps clients develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their partners, which can lead to increased empathy, connection, and intimacy. Traditional therapy may focus more on problem-solving and cognitive restructuring, rather than on emotional experience.

Collaborative approach

In RLT, the therapist and client work collaboratively to develop and implement a treatment plan. The therapist takes an active role in identifying patterns and dynamics that may be causing problems, but the client is also encouraged to take responsibility for their behavior and to work collaboratively with the therapist to improve their relationships. The therapist provides guidance and support, but the client is ultimately responsible for making changes in their life. In contrast, traditional therapy may be more therapist-led and hierarchical, with the therapist assuming a more authoritative role.

Practical focus

Practical focusRLT often involves practical exercises and homework assignments to help clients practice and integrate new relational skills into their daily lives. For example, a therapist may ask a couple to practice active listening or to express their emotions in a certain way during a conversation. This practical focus helps clients build new habits and skills that can be applied in real-life situations, leading to improved relationships and increased well-being.

Models Of Relational Life Therapy

Several models of Relational Life Therapy (RLT) have been developed over time. Here are three of the most well-known models:

  • Terry Real’s Relational Life Therapy: Terry Real is a prominent RLT therapist and author who has developed his model of RLT. Real’s model emphasizes the importance of recognizing and healing childhood wounds, developing emotional intelligence, and building healthy boundaries. Real’s therapy approach is highly structured, and it often includes homework assignments, experiential exercises, and role-playing.
  • Harville Hendrix’s Imago Relationship Therapy: Harville Hendrix is another well-known RLT therapist and author. He has developed his model of RLT, called Imago Relationship Therapy. Hendrix’s model focuses on helping couples heal childhood wounds, develop empathy and understanding for their partners, and learn practical communication skills. The therapy approach includes a structured dialogue process that encourages active listening and respectful communication.
  • Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson’s Developmental Model of Couples Therapy: Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson developed their model of RLT, called the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. This model emphasizes the importance of recognizing and addressing developmental issues that may be impacting a couple’s relationship. Such as attachment styles, identity development, and differentiation. The therapy approach includes a focus on building healthy boundaries and developing greater emotional intelligence.

Benefits Of Relational Life Therapy

Benefits Of Relational Life TherapyRelational Life Therapy (RLT) can offer several potential benefits to clients who are struggling with relationship issues. Here are some of the benefits of RLT:

  • Improved communication: RLT helps clients develop effective communication skills that can help them express their emotions and needs.
  • Greater emotional intelligence: It emphasizes the importance of understanding and expressing emotions. This can lead to greater emotional intelligence. Clients learn to recognize and name their emotions, and to develop healthy ways of expressing and managing them.
  • Healing from past traumas: RLT can help clients work through past traumas or wounds that may be affecting current relationships.
  • Increased empathy and connection: It encourages clients to develop greater empathy and understanding for their partners. This can lead to deeper connections and more fulfilling relationships. Clients learn to recognize their partner’s perspective and to respond in a way that is respectful and compassionate.
  • Practical skills-building: RLT includes practical exercises and homework assignments that help clients develop new habits and skills. Clients learn to practice healthy communication, set boundaries, and build emotional resilience.
  • Improved overall well-being: RLT can help clients improve their overall well-being by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. By developing healthier relationships, clients can experience greater happiness, fulfillment, and life satisfaction.


Relational Life Therapy (RLT) is a practical and skills-based approach to improving relationships and overall well-being. RLT teaches clients effective communication skills, healthy boundaries, emotional intelligence, and empathy. It can also help clients work through past traumas and develop practical skills to apply in real-life situations. If you’re struggling with relationship issues, seeking help from a qualified RLT therapist can offer you the tools and strategies you need to build healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

For more information, please contact MantraCare. Relationships are an essential part of human life. Our connections with people help us to form social bonds, and understand and empathize with others. If you have any queries regarding Online Relationship Counseling experienced therapists at MantraCare can help: Book a trial therapy session.

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