Emotional experience and alliance contribute to therapeutic change in psychodynamic therapy

Hadar Fisher, Dana Atzil-Slonim, Eran Bar-Kalifa, Eshkol Rafaeli, Tuvia Peri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Accumulating evidence suggests that the therapeutic alliance and clients' contact with emotions during therapy sessions can be effective in reducing their suffering outside of sessions. However, the complex associations among these determinants are not yet clear. Using data collected in therapy on a sessionby- session basis, this study explored (a) the temporal associations between emotional experience and the therapeutic alliance; (b) the temporal associations between emotional experience and clients' level of functioning; and (c) the direct and indirect associations among emotional experience, the therapeutic alliance, and functioning. Clients (N = 101) undergoing psychodynamic therapy completed a functioning and distress measure prior to each session, and reported on their emotional experience and perceived alliance strength following each session. Longitudinal multilevel models indicated that higher therapeutic alliance scores at the end of 1 session predicted a greater emotional experience in the next session but that emotional experience did not predict subsequent levels of alliance. The results provided evidence of reciprocal prediction in which a previous emotional experience predicted a subsequent change in functioning and vice versa. Finally, the alliance predicted emotional experience, which, in turn, predicted functioning; hence, alliance strength indirectly predicted clients' level of functioning. Findings indicate that emotional experience and the therapeutic alliance are important determinants of the therapeutic process, which contribute to predict clients' improvement in functioning within psychodynamic treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-116
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Psychological Association.


  • Emotional experience
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Therapeutic alliance


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