Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 215–223 | Cite as

Building and Handling Therapeutic Closeness in the Therapist-Client Relationship in Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy

  • Luc VandenbergheEmail author
  • Angelica Marden Coppede
  • Marla Viegas Bittencourt
Original Paper


The present study unpacks an important dimension of clinical practice from the therapists’ vantage point. We interviewed 26 therapists in private practice about how the personal relationship with the client works from their perspective and conducted a grounded theory analysis. Three categories emerged. One refers to scope, aims and corollaries of the connection with the client; a second to preventing harm and managing drawbacks; and a third to taking therapeutic advantage of challenges related to closeness. Together, these categories form a model that describes how the close connection modifies therapeutic effects and generates challenges the therapist needs to deal with. The closer the dyad, the easier therapists will affect and be affected by the client. Therapists try to direct closeness to where it can nourish client process without harming the relationship, the client or themselves, and when closeness backfires, they may still try to harness uninvited effects for the benefit of therapy. This model concerning therapists’ lived experience is offered to inform research on the therapist-client relationship and as a contribution to clinical competency models.


Closeness Therapist-client relationship The real relationship Grounded theory 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pontifical Catholic University of GoiásGoiâniaBrazil

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