The Relational Self: Ethics and Therapy from a Black Church Perspective by Archie Smith Jr. consists of eight chapters. Chapters 1–4 set out what the author means by "the relational self." This is based in the philosophy of H. Richard Niebuhr, who wrote about the relations between the human self, which is grounded in history and therefore in constant flux, and the eternal, unchanging nature of God. Smith also discusses the theories of the philosopher and psychologist George Herbert Mead, who saw the self as a social process, created by and reacting to the society in which one lives. The self, therefore, according to Smith, has a specific relation to God that is obscured by its unstable relation to society.
Having established the philosophical basis for the self in the first half of the book, Smith uses chapters 5–7 to describe a particular evangelical approach to therapy used by Black churches, in which liberation theology serves as a basis for political activism. This activism arises out of therapy which examines the relations between the self and God and is itself a form of therapy, as well as an ethical activity which promotes social justice. The final chapter draws together the themes of the first seven chapters, emphasizing the link between therapy, social justice, and worship within the Black church.