Assessing Key Linguistic Dimensions of Ruptures in the Therapeutic Alliance

Abstract

Over the past two decades, therapeutic alliance research has increasingly focused on understanding the process by which the alliance is ruptured and repaired. This paper is the first to explore how alliance rupture segments from psychotherapy sessions differ from non-rupture segments on key dimensions of the referential process. A sample of 27 psychotherapy sessions were scored using a measure designed to identify rupture from non-rupture segments. These segments were then scored for key linguistic dimensions of the referential process. During ruptures patients manifested a referential process marked by a decrease in emotional engagement, an increase in a measure of distancing, and an increase in negation as compared to non-rupture segments. Therapists show similar patterns but, in addition, manifest a language pattern that suggests that during ruptures, therapists are attempting to make sense of, and self-disclose, aspects of their inner experience. Implications for research and clinical work are explored.

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Correspondence to Christopher Christian.

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Christian, C., Barzilai, E., Nyman, J. et al. Assessing Key Linguistic Dimensions of Ruptures in the Therapeutic Alliance. J Psycholinguist Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10936-021-09768-1

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Keywords

  • Therapeutic alliance
  • Referential process
  • Alliance ruptures and resolutions
  • Therapeutic linguistic dimensions