Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Agriculture, Food and Environment

Department

Family Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Ronald Werner-Wilson

Abstract

The therapeutic alliance is largely recognized as an important component of the therapeutic process. For clients of all ages, the therapeutic alliance has been associated with positive outcomes and increased engagement in therapy (Bachelor, 2013; Bhola, & Kapur, 2013; Liber et al., 2010). However, very few studies have explored the complex process of fostering the therapeutic alliance with adolescent clients, while also maintaining a positive therapeutic relationship with the adolescent’s caregivers. The present study attempted to fill the gap in the literature through qualitatively exploring therapists’ perspectives of the therapeutic alliance with adolescents and their caregivers.

In order to discover the essence of therapists’ experiences of the therapeutic alliance with adolescents and their caregivers, a phenomenological research design was employed. Nine therapists were interviewed about their experiences of the therapeutic alliance with adolescents and their caregivers. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed, and various themes and subthemes were revealed. The themes were divided into three sections: (1) conceptualizing the therapeutic alliance, (2) therapeutic alliance with adolescents, and (3) therapeutic alliance with caregivers. Two themes emerged within the ‘conceptualizing the therapeutic alliance’ section: (1) trust, and (2) foundation of therapy. Two themes and various subthemes emerged within the ‘therapeutic alliance with adolescents’ section. The first theme describes the obstacles that therapists face when attempting to build the alliance with adolescent clients, and contained three subthemes: (1) viewed as an authority figure, (2) resistance to therapy, and (3) differences in SES. The second theme describes the strategies that therapists use to develop the therapeutic alliance and contains three subthemes: (1) discuss interests, (2) honor their voice, and (3) describe limits of confidentiality. Two themes were unveiled within the ‘therapeutic alliance with caregivers’ section: (1) obstacles, and (2) strategies. The ‘obstacles’ theme describes barriers that therapists face when constructing the alliance with caregivers of adolescent clients, and contains two subthemes: (1) fear of triangulation, and (2) caregivers’ expectations. The ‘strategies’ theme contains four subthemes: (1) empathy, (2) give caregivers an active role, (3) collaborative approach, and (4) establish clear boundaries. Clinical implications, recommendations for future research, and limitations of the study are discussed.

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Counseling Commons

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