The Influence of Demand Characteristics and Social Desirability on Clients’ Ratings of the Therapeutic Alliance


Please address correspondence to: Robert Reese, 235 Dickey Hall, Lexington, Kentucky 40506. E-mail:



To examine demand characteristics, social desirability on clients’ rating of working alliance using the Session Rating Scale (SRS; Miller, Duncan, & Johnson, 2000).


Clients (N = 102) at two sites were randomly assigned to one of three alliance feedback conditions: (a) IF—SRS completed in presence of therapist and the results discussed immediately afterward; (b) Next Session Feedback—SRS completed alone and results discussed next session; or (c) No Feedback—SRS completed alone and results not available to therapist. Clients completed the SRS for the first three sessions of treatment.


No statistically significant differences in SRS scores across the feedback conditions were found. Additionally, the analysis showed that SRS scores were not correlated with a measure of social desirability but were correlated with an established alliance measure.


The results indicate that alliance scores were not inflated due to the presence of a therapist or knowing that the scores would be observed by the therapist.