A New Theoretical Foundation for Relationship-centered Care

Complex Responsive Processes of Relating


  • Anthony L. Suchman MD, MA, FAAPP

    1. Relationship Centered Health Care, Rochester, NY, USA
    2. The Departments of Medicine and Psychiatry, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA
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  • The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

  • This work is presented at the Regenstrief Symposium on Health Services Research, September 29, 2004.

Address correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr. Suchman: 42 Audubon St., Rochester, NY 14610 (e-mail: asuchman@rochester.rr.com).


Relationship-centered care (RCC) is a clinical philosophy that stresses partnership, careful attention to relational process, shared decision-making, and self-awareness. A new complexity-inspired theory of human interaction called complex responsive processes of relating (CRPR) offers strong theoretical confirmation for the principles and practices of RCC, and thus may be of interest to communications researchers and reflective practitioners. It points out the nonlinear nature of human interaction and accounts for the emergence of self-organizing patterns of meaning (e.g., themes or ideas) and patterns of relating (e.g., power relations). CRPR offers fresh new perspectives on the mind, self, communication, and organizations. For observers of interaction, it focuses attention on the nature of moment-to-moment relational process, the value of difference and diversity, and the importance of authentic and responsive participation, thus closely corresponding to and providing theoretical support for RCC.