What is therapeutic alliance?
The therapeutic alliance is also referred to as the “working alliance” or the “helping alliance.” It’s essentially a way to encapsulate the relationship between an individual and the trained professional providing therapy as a way to help them recover from or manage a range of conditions.
The therapeutic alliance isn’t black or white — it’s a spectrum. You don’t either have a therapeutic alliance or not have one for the same reason you can’t just expect to be fully recovered in your first day with a new therapist. It takes time to build the trust that the therapeutic alliance requires.
The definition of therapeutic alliance has changed greatly over time. It has roots in Freud’s descriptions of transference and was regarded as negative, although he later treated transference as potentially beneficial. Bordin’s proposal of therapeutic views the alliance as an influencer in the outcome of therapy. It affects the patient’s commitment to continuing treatment and their likelihood of accepting and following direction.
So how does this develop? There’s a good chance your therapist, whether consciously or subconsciously, is taking a few key steps to try to establish this trust while the relationship is new. According to The Huffington Post:
They’ll do things to build faith in the fact that they’re genuinely interested in your problems. This includes being attentive, asking thoughtful questions and giving you their complete focus for the duration of the session.
They’ll express understanding of your point of view. Good therapists have the ability to express empathy to their clients, making you feel like you’re speaking to someone who understands.
They’ll build confidence that they’ll be able to help. In order to trust your therapist, you need to have faith in their understanding of the mechanics of your problem. This is why mental health professionals ask so many pointed questions about what’s troubling you.
You may not even notice these therapeutic relationship phases developing, but trained psychologists understand how to build trust with their clients using these methods.
The importance of therapeutic alliance
Research has consistently shown that the quality of the therapeutic alliance is one of the most significant factors that influence the outcome of therapy. A strong therapeutic alliance has been linked to better treatment outcomes, including improved symptom reduction, increased client satisfaction, and higher rates of treatment completion. On the other hand, a weak therapeutic alliance has been associated with lower treatment outcomes, decreased client satisfaction, and higher rates of dropouts from therapy.
The three components of therapeutic alliance
Therapeutic alliance has three essential components:
Bond: The bond component of the therapeutic alliance refers to the emotional connection between you and your therapist. It includes elements such as empathy, warmth, and rapport. A strong bond helps build trust, which is crucial for the therapeutic process.
Goals: The goals component of the therapeutic alliance refers to your therapist and your shared understanding of the objectives. It includes aspects such as treatment plans, goals, and outcomes. A shared understanding of the therapy’s goals helps to focus the therapy, increase motivation, and maintain engagement.
Tasks: The task component of the therapeutic alliance refers to your involvement in the therapy’s tasks and activities. It includes aspects such as homework, exercises, and assignments. Your active participation in these tasks helps to promote skill-building, self-awareness, and problem-solving.
Importance of therapeutic alliance
The importance of the therapeutic alliance in therapy cannot be overstated. It is a critical factor that contributes to the success of therapy. A strong therapeutic alliance can help you feel understood, accepted, and supported, which promotes your engagement, motivation, and commitment to the therapy. Additionally, a strong therapeutic alliance helps the therapist develop a deeper understanding of your experiences, which helps to tailor the therapy to your specific needs.
The therapeutic alliance is a crucial component of therapy. It is a collaborative and supportive relationship, based on mutual trust, respect, and understanding.
A strong therapeutic alliance is essential for the success of therapy, and it has been linked to increased client satisfaction, and higher rates of treatment completion. As a result, therapists should focus on developing and maintaining a strong therapeutic alliance with their clients to promote positive treatment outcomes and help their clients achieve their therapy goals.