Significant events in psychotherapy: An update of research findings
Article first published online: 24 DEC 2010
2010 The British Psychological Society
Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice
Volume 83, Issue 4, pages 421–447, December 2010
How to Cite
Timulak, L. (2010), Significant events in psychotherapy: An update of research findings. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theo, Res, Pra, 83: 421–447. doi: 10.1348/147608310X499404
- Issue published online: 24 DEC 2010
- Article first published online: 24 DEC 2010
- Received 8 August 2008; revised version received 6 January 2010
Significant events research represents a specific approach to studying client-identified important moments in the therapy process. The current study provides an overview of the significant events research conducted, the methodology used together with findings and implications.
PsychInfo database was searched with keywords such as significant events, important events, significant moments, important moments, and counselling or psychotherapy. The references of the selected studies were also searched. This process led to the identification of 41 primary studies that used client-identified significant event(s) as a main or secondary focus of the study. These were consequently reviewed with regard to their methodology and findings. The findings are presented according to type of study conducted.
The impacts of helpful events reported by clients are focused on contributions to therapeutic relationship and to in-session outcomes. Hindering events focus on some client disappointment with the therapist or therapy. The group therapy modality highlighted additional helpful impacts (like learning from others). Perspectives on what is significant in therapy differ between clients and therapists. The intensive qualitative studies reviewed confirm that the processes involved in significant events are complex and ambiguous. Studies show that the helpful events may also contain many hindering elements and that specific events are deeply contextually embedded in the preceding events of therapy.
Some studies suggest that helpful significant events are therapeutically productive although this may need to be established further. Specific intensive studies show that the clients' perceptions in therapy may differ dramatically from that of the therapist. Furthermore, the relational and emotional aspects of significant moments may be more important for the clients than the cognitive aspects of therapy which are frequently stressed by therapists.