Psychodynamic Group Psychotherapy: Impact of Group Length and Therapist Professional Characteristics on Development of Therapeutic Alliance
Article first published online: 29 MAY 2011
Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy
Volume 19, Issue 5, pages 420–433, September/October 2012
How to Cite
Lorentzen, S., Bakali, J. V., Hersoug, A. G., Hagtvet, K. A., Ruud, T. and Høglend, P. (2012), Psychodynamic Group Psychotherapy: Impact of Group Length and Therapist Professional Characteristics on Development of Therapeutic Alliance. Clin. Psychol. Psychother., 19: 420–433. doi: 10.1002/cpp.758
- Issue published online: 14 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 29 MAY 2011
- Manuscript Revised: 1 APR 2011
- Manuscript Accepted: 1 APR 2011
- Manuscript Received: 13 AUG 2010
- Helse Øst RHF. Grant Number: 2004-07
- Group Psychotherapy;
- Therapeutic Alliance;
- Short- and Long-term Therapy;
- Therapist Predictors
Little research has been done on therapeutic alliance in group psychotherapy, especially the impact of treatment duration and therapist professional characteristics.
Therapeutic alliance was rated by patients on the Working Alliance Inventory—Short Form at three time points (sessions 3, 10 and 17) in a randomized controlled trial of short-term and long-term psychodynamic group psychotherapy. As predictors we selected therapist clinical experience and length of didactic training, which have demonstrated ambiguous results in previous research. Linear latent variable growth curve models (structural equation modeling) were developed for the three Working Alliance Inventory—Short Form subscales bond, task and goal.
We found a significant variance in individual growth curves (intercepts and slopes) but no differential development due to group length. Longer therapist formal training had a negative impact on early values of subscale task in both treatments. There was an interaction between length of the therapists' clinical experience and group length on early bond, task and goal: therapists with longer clinical experience were rated lower on initial bond in the long-term group but less so in the short-term group. Longer clinical experience influenced initial task and goal positively in the short-term group but was unimportant for task or significantly negative for goal in the long-term group.
There was no mean development of alliance, and group length did not differentially impact the alliance during 6 months. Early ratings of the three Working Alliance Inventory—Short Form subscales partly reflected different preparations of patients in the two group formats, partly therapist characteristics, but more research is needed to see how these aspects impact alliance development and outcome. Therapists should pay attention to all three aspects of the alliance, when they prepare patients for group therapy. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Key Practitioner Message
- In psychodynamic groups, length of therapy does not differentiate the overall level or the development of member-leader alliance.
- Within psychodynamic groups, each individual appear to have their unique perception of the member-leader alliance.
- Therapists with longer formal psychotherapy training may be less successful in establishing early agreement with patients on the tasks of psychodynamic group psychotherapy.
- Patients perceive a somewhat lower degree of early emotional bonding with the more clinically experienced therapists in long-term psychodynamics groups.
- Therapists with more clinical experience may contribute to a stronger degree of initial agreement with patients on the tasks and goals of short-term group psychotherapy.