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Interaction Between Alliance and Technique in Predicting Patient Outcome During Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Owen, Jesse PhD*; Hilsenroth, Mark J. PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: June 2011 - Volume 199 - Issue 6 - p 384-389
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31821cd28a
Original Articles

The current study examined whether alliance interacted with psychodynamic interventions to predict patients' psychotherapy outcomes. A prospective study of psychodynamic psychotherapy with 68 outpatients who were treated by 23 therapists was used. The patients rated the alliance with their therapist early in treatment. Therapist use of psychodynamic techniques was reliably rated by independent clinicians for the same sessions. The therapy outcomes were measured at the end of treatment based on the patients' global symptomatology as well as estimate of improvement across a broad range of functioning. In all models, we controlled for the patients' pretherapy psychiatric severity. Analyses were conducted using multilevel modeling to account for therapist effects. Results revealed that patient rated alliance was significantly related to improvement on a measure of broad band functioning. In addition, alliance and psychodynamic interventions interacted to predict this scale of multidimensional therapy outcome. Further, results showed that several individual psychodynamic techniques interacted with alliance that were meaningfully related to this measure of broad band outcome including (1) linking current feelings or perceptions to the past; (2) focusing attention on similarities among patient's relationships repeated over time, settings, or people; and (3) identifying recurrent patterns in patient's actions, feelings, and experiences. In this sample of outpatient psychodynamic treatments, the dynamic techniques were most effective when provided in the context of strong alliances.

*Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY; and †Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY.

Send reprint requests to Jesse J. Owen, PhD, Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, University of Louisville, Louisville KY, 40292. E-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.