Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Child psychotherapy-Parent participation, Therapeutic alliance, Parent and child, Attachment behavior, Parents, Child therapy, Attachment, Working alliance


Over 2,000 studies have been completed exploring the working alliance in adult psychotherapy (Horvath and Bedi, 2002); by comparison, only 23 studies have explored the working alliance in psychotherapy with children (Shirk and Karver, 2003). However, the alliance in youth therapy may be more complex than in adult psychotherapy because it also involves the alliance between the child's parent(s) and the therapist (Hawley and Weisz, 2005). The parenttherapist alliance is one of the least emphasized relationships in theoretical or empirical literature referring to child therapy, and was the focus of the current study. Using a cross-sectional, quantitative research design and a small sample (N=53) of parents with children in therapy at a community mental health clinic, this study explored the relationship between parental attachment tendencies and parental assessment of the parenttherapist working alliance. This study utilized two self-report measures, the Working Alliance Inventory-Revised Short Form and Experiences in Close Relationships-Short Form. While no correlation was found between attachment patterns and the strength of the working alliance in the entire sample, when parents were placed into groups based on number of sessions attended, a significant, strong negative correlation was found between attachment avoidance and the parent-therapist bond in the mid-range group (attending 11-25 sessions). This suggests that parental attachment style may be related to the formation and strength of the parent-therapist working alliance over time. Clinical implications, study limitations, and suggestions for further research are discussed.




iv, 75 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 48-53)