Is Alliance Therapeutic in Itself? It Depends

Sigal Zilcha-Mano, Tal Ben David-Sela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The alliance has been a leading player in the long-running debate on whether therapeutic change is driven by factors common across distinct treatments or by treatment-specific factors. The present study disentangled between-patients differences in alliance strength from within-patient changes to investigate whether two treatments with identical goals but based on different roles of alliance differ in the within-patient effect of alliance on outcome. Both treatments are aimed at improving the patients’ interpersonal abilities, but in the supportive treatment (ST) the alliance is the main specific factor, whereas in the supportive–expressive treatment (SET) it is conceptualized as a common factor. One hundred patients were randomized to receive either ST or SET. Treatment outcome and alliance were assessed weekly. Treatment condition significantly moderated the effect of within-patient changes in the alliance (relative to its mean) on subsequent treatment outcome, so that any increases in state-like alliance predicted lower levels of subsequent depressive symptoms in ST than in SET.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Counseling Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Ethics approval was provided by the relevant university ethical committee (approval number: 118/15, date: October 10, 2015). Patient informed consent: prior to study participation, all patients received complete written and oral information regarding the study and sign a consent to participate in the study during the first pretreatment assessment. The authors report no conflict of interest. This work is supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF; Grant 186/15).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. American Psychological Association


  • Alliance
  • Common factor
  • Specific factor
  • State-like
  • Trait-like

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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