Clients' and therapists' views of the therapeutic alliance: similarities, differences and relationship to therapy outcome.

Research paper by Alexandra A Bachelor

Indexed on: 15 Nov '11Published on: 15 Nov '11Published in: Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy


To better understand how clients' and therapists' views of the therapeutic alliance differ and overlap, this study investigated, first, the components of the alliance that are relevant to the therapy participants; second, their relationship to post-therapy outcome; and third, the relationships between participants' alliance constructs. To identify participants' views, exploratory factor analyses were performed on clients' (n = 176) and therapists' (n = 133 observations) ratings of the Working Alliance Inventory (short form), the Helping Alliance Questionnaire and the California Psychotherapy Alliance Scales and conducted both on each measure separately and on the three measures combined. The results of the separate analyses indicated in general poor correspondence between the participant-derived components and each measure's a priori constructs. Results of the joint analyses suggested that clients view the alliance in terms of six basic components (Collaborative Work Relationship, Productive Work, Active Commitment, Bond, Non-disagreement on Goals/Tasks and Confident Progress), five of which were found to predict client-rated and/or therapist-rated post-therapy outcome. Results for therapists suggested four basic components (Collaborative Work Relationship, Therapist Confidence & Dedication, Client Commitment & Confidence, Client Working Ability), of which three predicted post-therapy outcome. Findings of significant, but modest to low moderate, correlations between several client and therapist joint factors suggested that despite similarities, the therapy partners' views of the alliance differ in important ways. Compared with therapists, clients appear to place greater emphasis on helpfulness, joint participation in the work of therapy and negative signs of the alliance. Implications of these findings are discussed.Therapists should not assume that their views of the therapeutic relationship and therapeutic work are shared by their clients and are encouraged to seek the client's feedback. Therapists may benefit from conveying that the client's perspective on problems and relevant work is valued and that they are working with the client as a team. Therapists may need to explicitly address how the therapeutic work is helpful and conducive to desired changes.