Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling Psychology & Community Services


William Heard's application of Martin Buber's dialogical theory to the practice and theory of therapy bears a striking similarity to the relational theories developed by Carol Gilligan and the writers associated with the Stone Center. Yet these two theoretical constructs have never been critically and formally compared. This study proposes to help fill that gap by critically comparing and contrasting the dialogical and relational constructs.

Seven questions will be addressed. (a) What is Buber's I-Thou/I-It construct?; (b) What is Gilligan's Connected Self construct and the Stone Center's relational construct?; (c) How do Buber and Gilligan/Stone Center's relational constructs compare?; (d) What is Buber/Heard's construct of therapeutic relationship?; (e) What is the Stone Center's construct of the therapeutic relationship?; (f) How do Buber/Heard and Gilligan/Stone Center's constructs of therapeutic relationship critically compare?; (g) What are the implications for the therapeutic relationship in light of these two constructs?

Sources for this study were the following: (a) Translations of Buber's work, works by Gilligan, and works by the Stone Center writers; (b) Secondary sources by authors who cite Buber and Gilligan in their work and others who have written on their constructs; (c) Mainstream or traditional literature reviewing the nature of the therapeutic relationship.

The study reached several conclusions. First, the Stone Center and the dialogical writers have similar though unique ways of understanding relationship in general and particularly the therapeutic relationship. Second, the traditional medical model of therapeutic relationship is inappropriate as it intrinsically objectifies the client. Finally, both groups agree that the therapist must accept and embrace his or her own vulnerability in the therapeutic process for healing to take place.

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