The Contribution of the Quality of Therapists’ Personal Lives to the Development of the Working Alliance
Research suggests that the person of the psychotherapist is important for the process and outcome of psychotherapy, but little is known about the relationship between therapists’ personal experiences and the quality of their therapeutic work. This study investigates 2 factors (Personal Satisfactions and Personal Burdens) reflecting therapists’ quality of life that emerged from the self-reports of a large international sample of psychotherapists (N= 4,828) (Orlinsky & Rønnestad, 2004, 2005) using the Quality of Personal Life scales of the Development of Psychotherapists Common Core Questionnaire (Orlinsky et al., 1999). These factors were investigated as predictors of alliance levels and growth (using the Working Alliance Inventory) rated by both patients and therapists in a large (227 patients and 70 therapists) naturalistic outpatient psychotherapy study (Havik et al., 1995). The Personal Burdens scale was strongly and inversely related to the growth of the alliance as rated by the patients, but was unrelated to therapist-rated alliance. Conversely, the factor scale of therapists’ Personal Satisfactions was clearly and positively associated with therapist-rated alliance growth, but was unrelated to the patients’ ratings of the alliance. The findings suggest that the working alliance is influenced by therapists’ quality of life, but in divergent ways when rated by patients or by therapists. It seems that patients are particularly sensitive to their therapists’ private life experience of distress, which presumably is communicated through the therapists’ in-session behaviors, whereas the therapists’ judgments of alliance quality were positively biased by their own sense of personal well-being.
Journal of Counseling Psychology, 2013, doi: 10.1037/a0033643