Individualism, the assumption that persons are self-contained and primarily act for the sake of the self, is prevalent in American culture and has arguably perpetuated numerous psychological and societal ills. Relationality, the assumption that persons are always and inextricably constituted by relationships, has been posited as a philosophical and practical alternative to individualist culture. Several scholars, both inside and outside of psychology, have developed relational concepts and practices, including some who have elucidated a relational approach to psychotherapy (e.g., Slife and Wiggins, 2009). This study examines the implications and effects of this therapeutic approach, particularly exploring relationality's therapeutic success in countering the implications of individualism. Greenbrier Academy, an adolescent female boarding school located in West Virginia, has adopted relationality as its guiding therapeutic ethic. This study utilized hermeneutically modified grounded-theory methods to inquire into the lived experience of students at Greenbrier Academy. Eight students were interviewed and the researcher recorded observations of daily programing over a six-day period. Results indicated that Greenbrier's students' experienced marked changes in the quality and meaning of their interpersonal relationships. They increasingly cared for and served their relationships, engaged in more intimate relationships with others, approached (rather than retreated from) others' differences, viewed others more holistically, and accepted personal responsibility in relation to their context.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Psychology



Date Submitted


Document Type





relationality, relationship, individualism, qualitative methods, grounded-theory methods, hermeneutics, psychotherapy, psychotherapy effectiveness, psychotherapy outcome

Included in

Psychology Commons