The quest for connection in interpersonal and therapeutic relationships

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This paper focuses on the need for connection as a common core theme at the heart of both close relationships and therapeutic relationships and explores ways to connect these two research domains that have evolved as separate fields of study. Bowlby's attachment theory provides a strong conceptual and empirical base for linking human bonds and bonds in psychotherapy. Method: The growing body of research intersecting attachment and psychotherapy (1980–2014) is documented, and meta-analytic studies on attachment–outcome and attachment–alliance links are highlighted. Results: Five ways of studying attachment as a variable in psychotherapy are underscored: as moderator, as mediator, as outcome, client–therapist attachment match, and as process. By integrating conceptualizations and methods in studying relational narratives of client–therapist dyads (Core Conflictual Relationship Theme), measures of alliance, and client attachment to therapist during psychotherapy, we may discover unique client–therapist relational dances. Conclusions: Future fine-grained studies on how to promote core authentic relational relearning are important to clinicians, supervisors and trainers, who all share the common quest to alleviate interpersonal distress and enhance wellbeing. Directions for advancing research on interpersonal and therapeutic relationships are suggested. Learning from each other, both researchers of close relationships and of psychotherapy relationships can gain a deeper and multidimensional understanding of complex relational processes and outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-487
Number of pages19
JournalPsychotherapy Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 4 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Society for Psychotherapy Research.


  • alliance
  • attachment
  • client–therapist relationship
  • interpersonal patterns
  • psychotherapy process
  • relationship narratives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'The quest for connection in interpersonal and therapeutic relationships'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this