Update On Therapy Partners

On my website is the page entitled Therapy Partners . This update is meant to provide the most extensive and current evidence on the importance of therapist and patient's becoming therapy partners. For the third time, the American Psychological Association Division of Psychotherapy commissioned a task force to explore  the empirically supported impact of the psychotherapy relationship on treatment outcome. This third iteration was intended to update the task force's findings and to present the best available evidence. The evidence was presented in a 2018 Special Issue of the Psychotherapy journal in the form of 16 articles.

The editors, Lambert and Norcross, "again adopted Gelso and Carter's (1985, 1994) operational definition of the relationship: The therapeutic relationship is the feelings and attitudes that the therapist and the client have toward one another, and the manner in which these are expressed" (p. 304). They explained that the emphasis on the therapeutic relationship did not mean to imply that therapeutic techniques do not matter. Indeed, they recognized that there is a complex interaction between the relationship and techniques. However, in this exploration of therapeutic variables, the relationship was the focus. This focus seemed very likely to be productive, since "both clinical experience and research findings underscore that the therapy relationship accounts for as much, and probably more, of the outcome variance as particular treatment methods" (p. 307).

Almost all of the 16 articles in the Special Issue were meta-analyses of particular aspects of the psychotherapy relationship and their impact on treatment outcome. These relationship elements included, for example, collaboration, goal consensus, empathy, emotional expression, repairing alliance ruptures, and client feedback. The editors opined that the more recent research again supported  the conclusion that ''the psychotherapy relationship makes substantial and consistent contributions to outcome independent of the type of treatment" (p. 303). In other words, regardless of the theory and associated techniques used in the treatment, the therapy partnership itself can heal.


Norcross, J.C., & Lambert, M.J. (2018). Psychotherapy relationships that work III. Psychotherapy, 55(4), 303-315. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pst0000193

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