Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Kristina Coop Gordon

Committee Members

Deborah P. Wells, Robert Gillespie


The purpose of this study was to investigate practicing mental health care professionals’ perceptions of the most important components of the therapeutic alliance in couple therapy. 151 therapists responded to requests posted to professional listservs and completed an online survey asking them to rate 18 aspects of the alliance on relative importance for couple therapy and individual therapy. Therapists also were given space to write narratives asking them to provide their definition of the therapeutic alliance in couple therapy as well as to describe unique ruptures in the alliance that may occur in the course of couple therapy.

Therapists who responded to the survey rated Balance and Resisting Triangulation to be significantly more important aspects of the alliance in couple therapy than in individual therapy. Moreover, these items were rated to be more important than broader aspects of the alliance such as Task agreement, Goal agreement, and Therapeutic Bond. No differences were found between theoretical orientations or degree of clinical experience among the components thought to be important to the alliance in couple therapy.

Clinical and research implications of therapists’ perceptions of important aspects of the alliance in couple therapy were discussed.

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