The Relationship Based Strengths Approach (RBSA)

RBSA Overview

Philosophical and Theoretical Orientation

RBSA Assumptions and Guiding Principles

RBSA Overview

The RBSA represents a set of core values that are systematically operationalized in a purposeful and perpetual manner to cultivate, enhance and sustain relationship, strengths, resiliencies and potential. The RBSA strives to allow and create space for the subjective experience, the most essential “truth”, of individuals, families and communities. According to the RBSA, the subjective experience of those we assist should guide all efforts of helping, healing and empowering

The RBSA is a very different way of viewing people, their environments and their situations. It is not a theory that purports to predict, dissect or categorize. It is a framework, a lens that utilizes foundational values as provisional guides for helping in the most respectful, dignified and effective manner possible. Compared to traditional (and some may argue current) approaches excessively concerned with problems, deficits, pathology and containing an over-reliance on theory, “professionalism”, labels and the diagnostic criteria of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the RBSA is fundamentally different. This perspective takes the position that people have important stories which contain a wealth of strengths and resources (intra-personal, interpersonal and environmental) to effectively cope with, persevere and surmount many of the challenges they face.

More importantly, a person’s capacity to grow and move towards meaningful and important goals can only be realized and achieved in RELATIONSHIP (with others and with self). Relationships, based on safety, trust, understanding, affirmation and validation of one’s experience and worth, are the foundations for life affirming changes and growth.

Within the context of relationship, the RBSA goes beyond the purposeful viewing (the search for strengths) towards the critical aspect of “doing” the strengths approach. Doing the RBSA entails engaging in active and tangible efforts and interventions which not only recognize, but serve to cultivate, enhance self worth, relationship and leverage strengths, resiliencies and potential in the pursuit and acquisition of stated goals “Doing relationship” and “doing strengths” are fundamental requirements for moving towards a more satisfying and preferred way of being.

The RBSA is an attitude, a way of orienting one’s views, beliefs and manners, to honor and endorse the uniqueness, integrity and worth of individuals and communities. Honoring and fostering individual uniqueness and respecting socio-cultural world views, it is among the most respectful and dignified ways of working. The purposeful orientation of RBSA is critical and conducive to the successful mission of searching for individuals’ strengths, capacities and available resources required for allowing and promoting being, healing and optimal growth

It would be a serious oversimplification to state that the RBSA is concerned merely with searching for strengths and building on them The RBSA is not only about a starting point of relationship and strengths focus, but an enduring value-based philosophical and technical stance in which all efforts arise and are continuously carried out

Philosophical and Theoretical Orientation




Humanistic approaches are concerned with establishing a standard for the optimization of well-being and human potential. A humanistic orientation holds that human beings are unique and have distinctive strengths including positive qualities such as lovingness, compassion, spontaneity, creativity, freedom, meaningfulness and dignity.

Humanistic approaches stress the importance of uniqueness, human value and individual responsibility.  Great value is also placed upon inner subjective worldviews; feelings, perceptions, values and goals. The greatest emphasis of humanistic approaches may be on the critical aspect of the therapeutic relationship, also referred to as the therapeutic alliance.

The therapeutic alliance may be the most powerful and significant element contributing to change.  The therapeutic relationship, characterized by genuineness, empathy and positive regard, is undoubtedly a key ingredient in successful intervention despite specific orientation or technical orientation(s). Before many people can change it is imperative that they feel respected, valued, validated and understood.


Constructivism refers to the view that “reality” and what we “know” about the world and our experiences of it is a product of our own mental processes rather than representing something that actually exists.  It is through our experiences and social interactions in the world that our reality is constructed.  Simply put, our reality is created through our social interactions with other people.  Reality is socially constructed.  In this light, language and symbolic and social interactions are the means by which reality is co-constructed between people and groups of people.

Given that we can choose to a great extent, it can be a choice to create a reality of pessimism, dysfunction, deficits, and weaknesses or a reality that reflects optimism, hope strengths, resiliencies and real, tangible successes and potentialities.


RBSA Assumptions and Guiding Principles

At the core of this orientation are assumptions with provisional values and guiding principles that constitute the strengths-based framework in which all endeavors and interventions are developed and carried out.

  1. Belief in the dignity and worth of  people as valuable human beings


This idea is conveyed through programming actions and/or inactions that serve to respect and preserve the dignity and integrity of all people.  While many people care workers “know” this principle as “common sense” knowledge there are distinct differences in the actions and interactions between those who “know” these values and those who “believe” in them.

  1. Belief in the respect and recognition of all people as unique


Respecting and recognizing all people as unique, with unique experiences, needs, values, opinions and goals is necessary for tuning into and learning from their subjective knowledge and understanding of the world.  Although many people have similar experiences and backgrounds it is essential to respect the individuality of each person. All programming should be developed and carried out based on the distinct experiences needs and desires of each person

  1. Belief in the necessity of a “secure base”.


A “secure base” refers to, can be developed and co-exist within several specific and important contexts. They are: 1) the physical environment 2) interpersonal relations and 3) one’s emotive and cognitive schemata.  A “secure base”, characterized by a strong sense of safety and significance is critical for successful navigation through the multiplicity of life stressors, engagement in safe risks and optimal growth.  For programming to be successful, establishment of a secure base must be a priority.


  1. Belief that reality is socially constructed


Reality is something that can be created individually or co-created with and between people through language and social interaction.  One has the ability create a reality of pessimism, dysfunction, deficits, and weaknesses or a reality that reflects optimism, hope strengths, resiliencies and real, tangible success and potentialities. Programming that honors the latter ideals is more likely to elicit motivation and cooperation, thereby increasing the likelihood of the development and attainment of meaningful goals.

  1. Belief that all people are resilient,  have strengths and the capacity to grow


Despite the stressors, challenges and injurious experiences numerous people have had, many of them bounce back, get stronger and exhibit already existing strengths and capacities. Most people can adapt and develop new and effective means to be successful in their efforts to overcome a variety of personal and interpersonal adversities.  Further, tuning in to a person’s strengths and capacity for growth is critical for the successful attainment of a preferred existence through desired outcomes.

  1. Belief that all people want what is good for them and have a desire to change


People are experts on their own lives.  They contain a wealth of subjective knowledge and experiences that are critical for their efforts and successes at attaining a more preferred life.  “Tuning in” is a critical first step to motivating people towards increased confidence, competence and overall self-actualization

  1. Belief in the significance of promoting self-determination and empowerment


Self-determination and empowerment are key principles essential for decreasing the marginalization that people requiring help often experience. These values are required for facilitating “ownership” of programming/intervention (and for one’s life) and inspire people with an increased sense of personal agency, motivation and individual responsibility. These principles are critical in the development and acquisition of significant goals necessary to move people to a more meaningful and preferred way of experiencing themselves and the world around them.


  1. Belief in the importance of Purpose and Goal Directedness


Purpose and goals are future-oriented anchors that shape and direct efforts needed to successfully approximate one’s full potential and move forward towards meaningful objectives.  These ideals are key elements in people’s motivation, focus and personal responsibility.  It is essential that all programming be purposeful and goal directed within the entire context of person-centered intervention.