Date of Award

8-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Kristina C. Gordon

Committee Members

Todd Moore, Gregory Stuart, Spencer Olmstead

Abstract

The therapeutic or working alliance is considered to be one of the most important elements in successful individual therapy and many types of couple, marital, and family therapy. The alliance involves a bond that is developed through investment, mutual agreement, and collaboration on tasks and goals. While substantial evidence exists that the therapeutic alliance plays an important role in multiple aspects of therapy outcomes for individuals, far less empirical attention has been given to the alliance in couple therapy. A primary reason for the dearth of research on alliance within a couple context is the complexity of measuring multiple alliances that interact systemically. The importance of the alliance in couple therapy may be viewed through the lens of attachment, psychodynamic, interdependence, and gender theories. These theories are explored as they relate to the importance of alliance, how gender moderates the association between alliance and outcomes, how each partner affects each others behavior and outcome, and how differences in alliance scores between individuals may impact outcome. These questions were examined using data from a brief, two-session intervention for couples, known as the “Relationship Checkup.” Structural equation modeling and actor partner interdependence models were used to examine these research questions, while taking into account the non-independence of the data. Results indicated that facilitator report of alliance positively predicted both men and women’s report of alliance with the facilitator. Additionally, results indicated that facilitator and women’s report of alliance positively predicted relationship satisfaction for men following the intervention, and that women’s alliance positively predicted their own relationship satisfaction following the intervention. Results also indicated that couples who disagreed on the strength of the alliance had worse outcomes following the intervention, and split alliance between wives and the facilitator indicated worse outcome for men following the intervention. Overall, alliance appears to be an important element for successful brief interventions for couples.

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