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J Stud Alcohol. 2000 Jan;61(1):139-49.

Predicting the therapeutic alliance in alcoholism treatment.

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  • 1Research Institute on Addictions, Buffalo, New York 14203, USA.



Prediction of the therapeutic alliance in alcoholism treatment (as rated by the client and by the therapist) was examined in light of a range of potentially relevant factors, including client demographics, drinking history, current drinking, current psychosocial functioning and therapist demographics.


The data were gathered in Project MATCH. The present analyses were based on data from 707 outpatients and 480 aftercare clients assigned to one of the three Project MATCH treatments. Potential predictor variables were evaluated by first examining bivariate linear relationships between the variables and ratings of the alliance, and then entering blocks of these predictors into multiple linear regression equations with alliance ratings as the dependent variables. All analysis incorporated adjustments for the nonindependence of ratings pertaining to clients seen by the same therapist.


In simple regressions evaluating bivariate relationships, outpatients' ratings of the alliance were positively predicted by client age, motivational readiness to change, socialization, level of perceived social support and therapist age, and were negatively predicted by client educational level, level of depression, and meaning seeking. Therapist ratings in the outpatient sample were positively predicted by the client being female and by level of overall alcohol involvement, severity of alcohol dependence, negative consequences of alcohol use, and readiness to change. Among aftercare clients, ratings of the alliance were positively predicted by readiness to change, socialization and social support, and were negatively predicted by level of depression. Therapist ratings of the alliance in the aftercare sample were positively predicted by the client being female and therapist educational level, and were negatively predicted by pretreatment drinks per drinking day. Of the variables having significant bivariate relationships with alliance scores, only a few were identified as significant predictors in multiple regression equations. Among outpatients, client age and motivational readiness to change remained positive predictors and client education a negative predictor of client ratings of the alliance, while client gender remained a significant predictor of therapist ratings. Among aftercare clients, readiness to change and level of depression remained significant predictors of client ratings, while none of the variables remained a significant predictor of therapist ratings.


While the data indicate that several client variables predict the nature of both the client's and therapist's perception of the therapeutic alliance, the significant relationships are of modest magnitude, and few variables remain predictive after controlling for causally prior variables. The strongest relationship identified in both the outpatient and aftercare samples is that between clients' motivational readiness to change and their ratings of the alliance.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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