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Keywords:

  • shame;
  • pride;
  • guilt;
  • therapeutic alliance;
  • relationship;
  • functioning;
  • interpersonal;
  • intimate;
  • mental health;
  • coping

Objectives

This study examined the role of shame coping styles and state shame in predicting the therapeutic alliance and intimate relationship functioning in individuals with mental health problems.

Method

A sample of 50 treatment-receiving adults aged 21 to 67 years with a mix of common mental health difficulties was recruited from a clinical psychology service. Participants were given questionnaire measures of shame states, shame coping styles, intimate relationship functioning, and the therapeutic alliance.

Results

Regression analyses indicated that the shame coping strategy of physical and psychological withdrawal was the primary risk factor for development of a less effective therapeutic alliance. Both withdrawal and attack self coping styles were significant predictors of impaired intimate relationship functioning.

Conclusions

These findings have implications for the theoretical role of shame in mental health presentations as well as the potential for internalizing shame coping styles (i.e., withdrawal, attack self) to act as a barrier to successful therapy and interpersonal relationships. The inclusion of shame-focused assessments and interventions in the initial stages of treatment with clients exhibiting these strategies could improve prognosis.