Dr. Roy Barsness, Professor of Counseling Psychology, has released a new book, Core Competencies of Relational Psychoanalysis: A Guide to Practice, Study, and Research. Core Competencies of Relational Psychoanalysis is a part of the Relational Perspectives Book Series, published by Routledge. Inspired and challenged by his students, Dr. Barsness embarked on a significant qualitative research project with the aim of demystifying the what and the how of relational psychotherapy.

“Prior to launching the study, I had to contend with my own reluctance to codify technical principles, easily identifying with many in the analytic community who view the analytic experience as ‘unformulated technique,’ believing that what we do is intuitive, automatic, and organic. Though this may be true, I think it is also true that each analyst has their own internal guidelines — they are simply not articulated. Secondly, my draw to psychoanalysis was essentially a spiritual calling. I understand our vocation as an invitation into the sacredness of the human encounter where change and healing occurs by calling to the depth of each person within the encounter. The nature of the human condition, the fluidity of the self and our relationships, is not categorical. So to label, categorize, or define scientifically this unique relationship, I found unsettling.”

Drawing on the mapping of his own mind as he sat with patients, contributions from his students, and dozens of interviews with senior analysts, Dr. Barsness identified seven core techniques that contribute to healing and transformation in the therapeutic relationship: therapeutic intent, therapeutic stance/attitude, deep listening/affective attunement, relational dynamic: the there and then and the here and now, patterning and linking, repetition and working through, courageous speech/disciplined spontaneity, and love. Drawing on his own work and in collaboration with leading analysts and clinicians, including Lewis Aron, PhD, Steven Knoblauch, PhD, Karen J. Maroda, PhD, ABPP, Nancy McWilliams, PhD, Allan Schore, PhD, Pratyusha Tummala-Narra, PhD, Dr. Barsness brings life and depth to these categories with research, reflections from analytics, and clinical vignettes.

“This book is dedicated to all of my students from the several institutions that I have had the privilege to teach — Fuller Theological Seminary, Seattle Pacific University, University of Washington — and in particular, the students at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, who have inhabited my life these past 13 years. It is students who asked the right questions that motivated the research and the writing of this book. I am also grateful to those who grant me the privilege of supervising and mentoring them, and to my/our patients, who instruct us all in bettering our skills in our service to others. I wish for my students and mentees to know that they are mentors to me and have been instrumental in my own formation as a person, as a clinician, and as a professor.”


Dr. Barsness’ is an active member of the American Psychological Association, the Relational Psychoanalytic & Psychotherapy Group – Seattle, the Christian Association of Psychology, and the Northwest Alliance for Psychoanalytic Study. Some of his previous publications include: Surrender & Transcendence in the Therapeutic Encounter; Playing with our cards face up: The power of acknowledging sexual arousal within the therapeutic setting; and The Relational Turn in Psychoanalytic Supervision.

The Forum at The Seattle School is hosting a free book release event to celebrate this new publication. The special event on Friday, November 3, 7:00-9:00pm, will include refreshments and feature Dr. Barsness in a lively conversation facilitated by Dr. Stephanie Neill. Participants will receive a 20% discount on all book purchases and the evening will conclude with a book signing by Dr. Barsness. Learn more and RSVP.