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Psychotherapy (Chic). 2008 Mar;45(1):75-87. doi: 10.1037/0033-3204.45.1.75.

How do therapists enhance family alliances? Sequential analyses of therapist-client behavior in two contrasting cases.

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Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, University at Albany/SUNY.


To identify alliance-related behavior patterns in more and less successful family therapy, the authors intensively analyzed two cases with highly discrepant outcomes. Both families were seen by the same experienced clinician. Results showed that participants' perceptions of the alliance, session impact, and improvement at three points in time were congruent with the families' differential outcomes and with observer-related alliance behavior using the System for Observing Family Therapy Alliances. In this measure, therapist behaviors contribute to the alliance and client behaviors reveal the strength of the alliance on four dimensions: Engagement in the Therapeutic Process, Emotional Connection with the Therapist, Safety within the Therapeutic System, and Shared Sense of Purpose within the Family. In the poor outcome case, observer ratings and self-reported alliance scores revealed a persistently "split" alliance between family members; this family dropped out midtreatment. Only in the good outcome case did the clients follow the therapist's alliance-building interventions with positive alliance behaviors; sequential analyses showed that therapist contributions to Engagement significantly activated client Engagement behavior, and therapist Emotional Connection interventions significantly activated client Emotional Connection. (PsycINFO Database Record

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