Elias H. Porter, Ph.D. was an influential psychologist, clinical therapist, educator, and author. While at the University of Chicago, he was a peer to other notable American psychologists, including Carl Rogers, Thomas Gordon, Abraham Maslow and Will Schutz. Porter’s primary contributions to the field of psychology were in the areas of non-directive approaches, psychometric tests, and Relationship Awareness Theory.

Porter’s Relationship Awareness Theory is a set of ideas that provide a window into the motivation that drives behavior. Porter later developed the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI), a psychometric test based on Relationship Awareness. The SDI is a practical application of the theory that can be used as a learning tool for individuals and groups. The SDI self-assessment is part of a suite of inventories that include feedback, expectations, and behavior strengths exercises.

“The more a personality theory can be for a person, rather than about a person, the better it will serve that person.”

– Elias Porter, Ph.D.

Dr. Porter’s experience in clinical, industrial, military and governmental settings provided the rich diversity of environments needed to validate a comprehensive theory of relationships and the suite of inventories based on that theory. The awareness of self and others gained from the SDI helps people to improve all types of relationships—be they at home, work, school, social or otherwise.


Early influences of Dr. Porter include the work of Erich Fromm and Carl Rogers. His collaborative work with Rogers and others at the University of Chicago helped him to evolve Fromm’s Freudian frame of reference into a person-centered approach to describing the dynamics of relationships—which ultimately became the SDI.

Elias H. Porter received his Ph.D. degree in Psychology from the Ohio State University in 1941. While pursuing doctoral studies, he was appointed as an Assistant in psychology and taught a variety of courses. Porter spent seven years at the University of Chicago, where he served as a staff member of the Counseling Center under Carl Rogers. Porter’s work contributed to Rogers’ development of Client-Centered Therapy.

During his time at University of Chicago he also began combining teaching with clinical work to author An Introduction to Therapeutic Counseling, a publication devoted to non-directive counseling. It was here also that he began his research into self-concept, which led to his development of Relationship Awareness Theory in early 1970.


Porter’s earliest known psychometric evaluations were performed during his years with Carl Rogers, and measured the degree of directiveness or non-directiveness of a counselor using client-centered techniques. His Person-Relatedness Test, measured and validated Erich Fromm’s four non-productive orientations. In 1967 he restructured the Person Relatedness Test and published it as LIFO. In 1971, Porter abandoned LIFO and published the Strength Deployment Inventory, which modified Fromm’s ideas and incorporated Porter’s original concepts from Relationship Awareness Theory. In the early 1970s he introduced the Feedback Edition of the Strength Deployment Inventory and the Interpersonal Requirements Inventory (since retitled Expectations Edition of the Strength Deployment Inventory).


Dr. Porter held teaching posts at the University of Oregon, University of California at San Diego, and University of California at Los Angeles. He served as associate clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, and maintained a private practice through the years.

Dr. Porter’s industrial and organizational experience included the positions of Assistant Director of Human Factors Directorate at System Development Corporation and Senior System Scientist at Technomics, Inc. Porter’s involvement with the RAND Corporation yielded his second book, Manpower Development in 1964. Manpower Development was one of the first published works to view organizational systems as complete organisms.

As his work with Relationship Awareness and SDI grew, he founded Personal Strengths Publishing, Inc. in 1971, and served as President until his death in December 1987.