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Resistance/Reactance Level


  • This article is adapted, by special permission of Oxford University Press, from a chapter of the same title by the same authors in J.C. Norcross (Ed.), 2011, Psychotherapy Relationships That Work (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. The book project was cosponsored by the APA Division of Clinical Psychology and the APA Division of Psychotherapy.


Psychotherapists from all professions and perspectives periodically struggle to effectively manage a patient's resistance to change. This article provides definitions and examples of patient-treatment matching applied to patient resistance or reactance. We report the results from an original meta-analysis of 12 select studies (N = 1,102) on matching therapist directiveness to patient reactance. Our findings support the hypothesis that patients exhibiting low levels of trait-like resistance respond better to directive types of treatment, while patients with high levels of resistance respond best to nondirective treatments (d = .82). Limitations of the research reviewed are noted, and practice recommendations are advanced. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol: In Session 67:133–142, 2011.

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