TPC Journal-Vol 11-Issue-3 - FULL ISSUE

The Professional Counselor | Volume 11, Issue 3 373 trusted communities of support (Dzierzewski, 2014; Woody, 2014; Yarns et al., 2016). Complicating the range of concerns within the older adult stages, the chronic effects of marginalization can increase risk factors for substance use and addictions as coping mechanisms for older LGBTQ+ adults of color (Bryan et al., 2017; Veldhuis et al., 2017). Substance use and addictions have become a more visible crisis facing these communities, and they can combine with the risks of displacement from social supports and vital community resources (Brennan-Ing et al., 2014; Cloyes, 2016; Rowan & Giunta, 2016). The Model of Relational–Cultural Theory (RCT) RCT can be used by counselors to reflect experiences with societal forces of oppression (Singh & Moss, 2016) and social determinants tied to health, connection, and wellness (Hammer et al., 2016). RCT has surfaced as an applicable theoretical approach for older LGBTQ+ adults of color with the most recent uptick of research and scholarship (Mereish & Poteat, 2015; Singh et al., 2020). Given the core values of RCT generated with social context, authenticity, connection, and social justice, the approach addresses needs, social conditions, barriers, and marginalization experiences for older LGBTQ+ adults of color (Chan & Erby, 2018; Rausch & Wikoff, 2017; Singh & Moss, 2016). The history of RCT provides context for current practice and underscores the foundation of a relationally centered paradigm. The concepts of relational images, growth-fostering relationships, and the central relational paradox inform counseling with clients experiencing such positions of resilience and oppression (Duffey & Trepal, 2016). The relevance of an RCT approach to a number of client concerns has gained traction as counseling professionals are charged with implementing more culturally responsive approaches (Flores & Sheely-Moore, 2020; Haskins &Appling, 2017; Singh et al., 2020). To support RCT’s utility, a recent review from Lenz (2016) concluded that empirical research has consistently supported RCT constructs and its use as a framework for understanding client experiences. Key Principles Originally positioned within Miller’s (1976) Five Good Things, the principles of RCT in counseling practice have imminently evolved into a robust theoretical framework centered in (a) clarity of self and others, (b) creativity, (c) zest, (d) empowerment, and (e) connection. As Jordan (2000) provided in an influential comprehensive overview of RCT, the main themes for the framework can be summarized in four distinct areas. The first principle posits that people are generally oriented toward growing individually and collectively within their relationships across the life span (Jordan, 2010, 2017), which results in growth-fostering relationships (Miller, 1976; Miller & Stiver, 1997). Secondly, growth-fostering relationships require mutuality, which is defined as mutual empathy and mutual empowerment (Jordan, 2010; Kress et al., 2018). Because of mutuality in growth-fostering relationships, assessing growth of individuals and relationships is contingent on authenticity, or individual genuineness, as the third component (Duffey & Trepal, 2016; Jordan, 2000, 2017). Individuals’ abilities to represent themselves authentically in their relationships can be a function of this growth (Duffey & Somody, 2011; Hammer et al., 2016). Because authenticity underpins mutuality and growth-fostering relationships, the fourth area of RCT involves the central relational paradox. The central relational paradox illustrates how the fear of vulnerability reduces authentic expression and maintains disconnections, despite a proclivity for connection with others (Miller & Stiver, 1997). When mutuality and authenticity are prioritized, professional counselors using RCT assume that conflict can be a normal dynamic in the relationship, in which high-level growth in the relationship involves the ability to actively address this relational difference (Comstock et al., 2008; Duffey, 2007; Jordan & Carlson, 2013). The primary function of RCT in counseling then focuses on building relational competence (Kress et al., 2018; Singh & Moss, 2016).