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Christian Counseling - Successful Treatment Outcome: One Essential Characteristic

There are many characteristics that effect treatment outcome and only a few which are essential, such as a therapist's experience and competence or a client's motivation and participation. But the one research supported characteristic having the greatest impact on outcome is the therapeutic alliance--the relationship or goodness of fit between client and therapist. About a third of change happens as a result of the alliance.

A common belief of many therapists is that "It is the relationship which heals." It is not the therapist's knowledge or experience, though they are important, that best guarantees treatment success, but the quality of relationship between a client and therapist.

What comprises a good therapeutic alliance? It is a complex issue. Because people are different, so is what a client desires or needs to establish a connection with a therapist. For example, is alliance based on logical parameters (agreeing to and working on a set of goals) or a feeling of attachment? Ideally, it should be both. Some therapist characteristics that build alliance include: trust, collaboration, respect, caring, genuineness, empathy, acceptance and nonjudgmental attitude. The client/therapist relationship is enhanced when these characteristics belong to both parties, not just the therapist.

Evaluating the therapeutic alliance is critical when choosing a therapist. Of course, the only way you can properly determine that is to see him or her for a session or two. If a person has not established a fair amount of alliance by the fifth session, he or she should talk with the therapist and seek resolution. If it's not resolved, the person may be better off looking for another therapist. An exception to this would be if a client has significant difficulty in trusting and attaching to others. In this case, it may take months or, for some, years to establish a therapeutic alliance. Progress can still be made without much alliance, but it will be limited or slow going until the alliance is formed. Then again, for these people, perhaps the overarching goal of treatment might be or should be understanding and developing relational attachments.

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