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J Fam Psychol. 2003 Dec;17(4):534-44.

Alliance and dropout in family therapy for adolescents with behavior problems: individual and systemic effects.

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  • 1University of Miami School of Medicine, Center for Family Studies, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Miami, FL 33136, USA.


This study examined the relationship between alliance and retention in family therapy. Alliance was examined at the individual (parent and adolescent) and family levels (within-family differences). Participants were 34 families who received functional family therapy for the treatment of adolescent (aged 12-18 years) behavior problems. Families were classified as treatment dropouts (n=14) or completers (n=20). Videotapes of the first sessions were rated to identify parent and adolescent alliances with the therapist. Results demonstrated that individual parent and adolescent alliances did not predict retention. However, as hypothesized, dropout cases had significantly higher unbalanced alliances (parent minus adolescent) than did completer cases. These findings highlight the importance of alliances in functional family therapy and suggest that how the alliance operates in conjoint family therapy may be a function of systemic rather than of individual processes.

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