Relational variables in short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy: an effectiveness study

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Annalisa Tanzilli *
Michele Majorana
Laura Fonzi
Mauro Pallagrosi
Angelo Picardi
Maria Antonietta Coccanari de’ Fornari
Massimo Biondi
Vittorio Lingiardi
(*) Corresponding Author:
Annalisa Tanzilli |


This study examined associations between specific elements of therapeutic relationships and short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) outcomes. Notably, we focused on therapists’ subjective experiences during their first clinical interaction with patients, countertransference patterns and therapeutic alliance evaluated early in treatment, in relation to patient symptom changes at the end of STPP. Twenty clinicians completed the Comprehensive Psychopathological Rating Scale to evaluate patients’ (N=32) symptom severity at the beginning and end of STPP. They also completed the Assessment of Clinicians’ Subjective Experience (ACSE) to assess their subjective experiences of their patients at the first clinical interview and the Therapist Response Questionnaire (TRQ) and Working Alliance Inventory to evaluate their countertransference reactions and therapeutic alliance at the sixth therapy session. The findings showed that the TRQ and ACSE scales correlated in a coherent way, with the exception of the TRQ helpless/inadequate pattern and ACSE impotence. Strong and more negative TRQ countertransference patterns and ACSE dimensions were significantly associated with lower quality of the therapeutic alliance. Finally, better STPP outcomes were positively associated with a good therapeutic alliance and negatively correlated with greater difficulty in attunement at the beginning of clinical assessment and therapists’ stronger responses of helplessness, frustration, and disengagement during therapy. These results confirm the precious value of the clinical relationship, which represents a useful source of information for therapists when planning therapeutic interventions.

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