The therapeutic relationship and change processes in child psychotherapy: a qualitative, longitudinal study of the views of children, parents and therapists

Submitted: June 19, 2021
Accepted: February 24, 2022
Published: March 4, 2022
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Through the perspectives of children, parents and therapists, this study explored the therapeutic relationship as a change facilitator in different moments of psychotherapy. The children, parents, and therapists (N=15) who formed part of five therapeutic treatments were studied using a qualitative, longitudinal design. Thirty semi-structured interviews were done; half at the beginning and half after four months of psychotherapy. Children’s drawings were incorporated, and data were analysed through grounded theory methods and qualitative analysis guidelines for drawings. Participants identified several aspects of the therapeutic relationship as change facilitators. From the first encounters, the therapists’ close and adaptable attitude promoted an improved motivation for psychotherapy and enhanced engagement among children and parents. Later in the process, a positive, child-centred and affective therapeutic relationship fostered the child’s trust with the therapist as well as a positive relational experience, promoting associated changes in children and the development of socio-affective tools. Parents and therapists saw their own relationship as a change facilitator, as well as a broader understanding in parents of their children and an improved relationship with them. Parent’s and child’s changes helped each other. Specific and common aspects between participants’ perspectives provided a richer understanding of the studied phenomena. This study supports the view that a positive therapeutic relationship facilitates early changes in the motivation of children and parents, and provides them with a healing, relational experience as it develops. A positive parent-therapist relationship is also key for changes to further progress.

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How to Cite

Nuñez, L., Fernández, S., Alamo, N., Midgley, N., Capella, C., & Krause, M. (2022). The therapeutic relationship and change processes in child psychotherapy: a qualitative, longitudinal study of the views of children, parents and therapists. Research in Psychotherapy: Psychopathology, Process and Outcome, 25(1). https://doi.org/10.4081/ripppo.2022.556

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