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Clin Psychol Psychother. 2012 May-Jun;19(3):187-202. doi: 10.1002/cpp.743. Epub 2011 Mar 2.

Exploring in-session focus on the patient-therapist relationship: patient characteristics, process and outcome.

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Department of Psychology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


This study explored the amount of in-session focus on the patient-therapist relationship during early treatment with patient pre-treatment interpersonal style, personality pathology, patient ratings of session process and outcome. The sample consisted of 76 outpatients engaged in short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy. Results showed that higher levels of pre-treatment personality pathology and interpersonal problems were positively related to a greater focus on the patient-therapist relationship early in treatment. This was especially true for patients with a cold/distant interpersonal style and low self-esteem. Moreover, these two patient pre-treatment characteristics demonstrated a significant change over the course of therapy. These post-treatment changes also demonstrated a significant relationship with greater early treatment focus on the patient-therapist relationship. In addition, we found an interaction effect between quality of object relations (i.e., higher levels of object relations) and greater early treatment focus on the patient-therapist relationship with subsequent changes in patient cold/distant interpersonal problems. Greater in-session focus on the therapeutic relationship was not significantly related to patient ratings of session process. Implications for clinical practice and future research are discussed.

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