Relational Frame Theory


The study and understanding of human functioning is not restrained to clinical domains, and Relational Frame Theory (RFT) allows insights beyond ACT and other CBS applications. Relational Frame Theory (RFT) is the behavioural theory of human language and cognition. RFT outlines that languages allows us to: 1) derive relationships between events, 2) joins these relationships into vast relational networks, and 3) transfers functions between related events. The overarching aim of RFT research has been to integrate a range of apparently diverse psychological phenomena including: stimulus equivalence, naming, understanding, analogy, metaphor, and rule-following.

RFT research has shed light on the development of perspective taking, theory of mind and empathy, creating immediate applications in Autism and child development. It has highlighted ways to teach and raise children that will increase IQ through expanding psychological flexibility, as opposed to tradition teaching or rote learning approaches. It has shown application in organisational psychology seeking to understand how teams function based on how they see their relationships of self and other. It fits with anthropological and evolutionary theories of cultural transmission and gives insight into how one can evolve culture itself.

ACT Work in ANZ ACBS Community

Applied RFT

Darin Cairns has had ongoing involvement in early intervention programs, and has long been advocate for clinical psychology being viewed through the lense of developmental processes. This interest has led Darin to study and seek ways to apply Relational Frame Theory to higher order human functioning such as: perspective taking, empathy, development of self-concept, reasoning skills, and the processes that lead to psychological meaning. Currently, Darin is working on weaving RFT concepts and methods into conventional verbal behaviour analysis and ABA programs, and writing a parent manual for promoting psychological flexibility in children with emotional and behavioural issues.


Paul Atkins and Robert Styles at ANU are working on self concept (deictics), development and expression research.
James Duguid and Joseph Ciarrochi at University of Western Sydney are working on IRAP research.
Priscilla Almada at the University of Wollongong is researching the relationship between perspective taking (deictics), prosocial behaviour and coercive behaviour.


1) Come to our annual ANZ ACBS conference and attend an RFT talk, workshop, symposium, or panel.

2) HISTORY OF RFT (via Darin Cairns).

3) Eric Fox has a fun and easy to follow online Introduction to RFT  tutorial.

4) Learning RFT: An Introduction to Relational Frame Theory and Its Clinical Application.

5) Join the RFT listserv and facebook page.

Return to Mind Map