Factors Influencing Successful Psychotherapy Outcomes


Download Factors Influencing Successful Psychotherapy Outcomes


Preview text

St. Catherine University
SOPHIA

Master of Social Work Clinical Research Papers

School of Social Work

5-2012
Factors Influencing Successful Psychotherapy Outcomes
Margaret McCoy Lynch St. Catherine University

Follow this and additional works at: https://sophia.stkate.edu/msw_papers Part of the Social Work Commons
Recommended Citation Lynch, Margaret McCoy. (2012). Factors Influencing Successful Psychotherapy Outcomes. Retrieved from Sophia, the St. Catherine University repository website: https://sophia.stkate.edu/msw_papers/57
This Clinical research paper is brought to you for free and open access by the School of Social Work at SOPHIA. It has been accepted for inclusion in Master of Social Work Clinical Research Papers by an authorized administrator of SOPHIA. For more information, please contact [email protected]

Running head: FACTORS INFLUENCING SUCCESSFUL PSYCHOTHERAPY OUTCOMES
Factors Influencing Successful Psychotherapy Outcomes Submitted by Margaret McCoy Lynch May, 2012
MSW Clinical Research Paper The Clinical Research Project is a graduation requirement for MSW students at St. Catherine University/University of St. Thomas School of Social Work in St. Paul, Minnesota and is conducted within a nine-month time frame to demonstrate facility with basic social research methods. Students must independently conceptualize a research problem, formulate a research design that is approved by a research committee and the university Institutional Review Board, implement the project, and publicly present their findings. This project is neither a Master’s thesis nor a dissertation.
School of Social Work St. Catherine University & University of St. Thomas
St. Paul, Minnesota
Committee Members: Philip AuClaire, Ph.D., Chair Katie Kaminski, MSW, LICSW Danielle Szczepanski, MSW, LICSW

FACTORS INFLUENCING SUCCESSFUL PSYCHOTHERAPY OUTCOMES

i

Abstract

Previous research indicates that the therapeutic alliance is a main factor in determining successful outcomes of psychotherapy. The goal of this study was to expand the understanding of not only the therapeutic alliance, but also how other contributing factors such as empathy, experience of the therapist, therapeutic modality, client’s level of motivation, personality, and symptomology increase positive therapeutic outcomes. The present study explored the following research question: What are the key factors to producing successful therapeutic outcomes in individual psychotherapy? This is an exploratory study with a qualitative research design. The findings of this study appear to correlate closely with the literature reviewed. The therapeutic alliance remains a key component of creating successful outcomes in psychotherapy. Empathy also continues to be an integral factor to not only forming the alliance, but also increasing a client’s ability to feel validated and understood. It appears that experience does not always increase the odds of creating successful outcomes in therapy, and no one type of therapeutic modality is superior to another. The findings also concur that a client’s level of motivation, personality characteristics, and symptomology do play a role in their therapeutic outcomes.

FACTORS INFLUENCING SUCCESSFUL PSYCHOTHERAPY OUTCOMES

ii

Acknowledgments

A special thank you to my chair Philip AuClaire, and my committee members Katie Kaminski and Danielle Szczepanski. Your time, support, and generosity throughout this project was greatly appreciated. Thanks for reminding me on several occasions that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
I would like to thank my family and friends for their never-ending love and encouragement in all that I choose to do. I wish to thank one of my very best friends and favorite English teacher Amy Johncox for her expertise and help, as well as Jane HurleyJohncox for giving me the confidence to advance my career in the field of social work.
Finally, I would like to thank my husband Jeff, who I have termed my “editor” these last three years. Your help, hard work, and support have been incredible; I could not have done it without you!

FACTORS INFLUENCING SUCCESSFUL PSYCHOTHERAPY OUTCOMES

iii

Table of Contents

Introduction………………………………………………………………………………..1 Literature Review………………………………………………………………………….4 Conceptual Framework…………………………………………………………………..17 Methods…………………………………………………………………………………..20 Results……………………………………………………………………………………23 Discussion………………………………………………………………………………..34 References………………………………………………………………………………..44 Appendix A………………………………………………………………………………48 Appendix B………………………………………………………………………………50

FACTORS INFLUENCING SUCCESSFUL PSYCHOTHERAPY OUTCOMES

1

Introduction

Throughout the history of psychotherapy, the relationship (also referred to as the therapeutic alliance, working alliance, and collaborative alliance) between therapist and client has been examined and explored many times over. Freud, as cited by Copper & Lesser (2011) was one of the first to address the concept that the client is an active collaborator in the treatment process. Bordin also agreed with Freud, viewing the relationship built, and the collaboration between therapist and client as, “one of the keys, if not the key, to the change process” (Cooper & Lesser, 2011, p.33). Teyber & McClure (2011) define the therapeutic alliance as a partnership where both therapist and client agree on shared goals, work together on tasks designed to bring a positive outcome, and establish a relationship built on trust, acceptance, and empathy.

With the understanding that the therapeutic alliance is a main factor in successful treatment outcomes, there also appears to be other overlapping components that may affect therapy outcomes. Empathy has been shown to be another indispensable element of the therapeutic process. Although a therapist’s empathy toward their client may have a part in forming the alliance, its influence on the relationship has been shown to be essential (Moore, 2006). Moore (2006) suggests empathy is not only communicated verbally, but also with increased eye contact, body posture, tone of voice, and listening skills. Therapists are encouraged to consider not only the therapeutic alliance, but also the ways in which they show empathy as an influence on outcome (Moore, 2006).
Another component linked to the successful outcome of therapy is the experience of the therapist. One may assume due to the old saying “practice makes perfect” that the

FACTORS INFLUENCING SUCCESSFUL PSYCHOTHERAPY OUTCOMES

2

longer a therapist has been practicing the likelier they are to have a successful outcome. Although a few studies have found a small association between therapist experience and successful therapeutic outcome, the majority of the evidence supports the notion that a more experienced therapist does not automatically generate more successful results (Hersoug, Hoglend, Monsen, & Havik, 2001).

Over the years, researchers have made numerous attempts to produce empirical results about which therapeutic modalities create the best therapy outcomes (Lantz, 2004). Again, this area has also been researched extensively in relation to therapeutic outcomes with seemingly limited results. Past research indicates that relationship factors, such as the therapeutic alliance, correlate more highly with success than do specialized treatment techniques or individual therapeutic modalities (Lantz, 2004).

If the therapeutic alliance and empathy are key ingredients to successful outcomes, and the significance of the therapist’s experience and modality are still open to question; one could ask if a client’s level of motivation, personality characteristics, and symptomology have any effect on the therapeutic outcome. Bachelor, Laverdiere, Gamache, & Bordeleau (2007) have proposed that there is in fact a correlation between a client’s current symptoms, level of motivation, ability to form relationships, and personality characteristics with successful outcomes in relation to psychotherapy.

This research study will focus on identifying factors that contribute to a successful outcome in individual therapy. The researcher chose this topic in order to expand the understanding of not only the therapeutic alliance, but also how other contributing factors such as empathy, experience of the therapist, therapeutic modality, client motivation,

FACTORS INFLUENCING SUCCESSFUL PSYCHOTHERAPY OUTCOMES

3

personality characteristics, and symptomology have an effect on the therapeutic outcome. The present study attempted to answer the following research question: What are the key factors to producing successful therapeutic outcomes in individual psychotherapy? This question was addressed though qualitative research by interviewing 12 Licensed Independent Clinical Social Workers (LICSSW’s) currently practicing individual therapy with adults.

FACTORS INFLUENCING SUCCESSFUL PSYCHOTHERAPY OUTCOMES

4

Literature Review

The present study highlights some important factors that generally encourage the successful outcome of psychotherapy. This literature review is divided into five sections that will cover the therapeutic alliance, empathy, experience of the therapist, therapeutic modality, and client motivation/personality characteristics/symptomology. All of these areas have been found in past research to have a significant impact on therapeutic results and relate well to the research question being posed.

Therapeutic Alliance

Gellhaus Thomas, Werner-Wilson, & Murphy (2005) define the therapeutic alliance as “the extent to which a client and therapist work collaboratively and purposefully and connect emotionally, and is conceptualized as a common, or generic, factor in that it is believed to cut across various treatment approaches” (p.1). The therapeutic alliance between psychotherapist and client is one topic that has been continually researched. Although the alliance between therapist and client emerged historically from psychodynamic literature as Summers & Barber (2003) suggest, it has been recognized as a crucial component to successful therapy outcomes from all different theoretical backgrounds. The literature suggests that both therapist and client alike have similar explanations of what makes therapy successful, and one consistent finding is the quality of the therapeutic alliance is predictive of positive treatment outcome (Black, Hardy, Turpin, & Parry, 2005). Newer research has started to focus more on the interaction between client and therapist as in how they align and collaborate with each other as being the primary mode of effective therapy. One study reported by Sharpley,

FACTORS INFLUENCING SUCCESSFUL PSYCHOTHERAPY OUTCOMES

5

Jeffrey, & McMah (2006) stated that over 80% of the positive outcomes of therapy may be due to the therapeutic relationship with the contributing elements being the manner in which the therapist exhibits warmth, empathy, and respect for the client.

Horvath and Greenberg, as cited by Sharpley et al. (2006) infer the therapeutic alliance can be separated into three categories; bond, goals, and task. Bond between therapist and client includes trust and emotional closeness. Goals include the changes in behavior that the client and therapist set and work on together. Task is the method that both therapist and client use to achieve their goals. The researchers in this study maintain that in order for goals and task to be accomplished, there must first be the relationship (bond) between therapist and client (Sharpley et al., 2006). Another study found similar results when researching the components of the therapeutic alliance also identified the same three categories of therapeutic alliance as goal, task, and bond. This study found that therapeutic alliance is mutually constructed between therapist and client and includes shared goals, accepted recognition of the tasks each person is to perform, and a trusting bond between the two parties (Summers & Barber, 2003).

Many studies suggest that the words and actions that the therapist uses to promote a healthy and working alliance have proven to be an important contributing factor to change for the client (Sullivan, Skovholt, & Jennings, 2005). The data does indicate that some therapists are consistently better than other therapists, and that the therapeutic outcome is enhanced through the therapeutic alliance (Carr, 2011). Carr discusses a study that found that the effectiveness of antidepressant medication had more to do with the particular psychiatrist prescribing the medicine (or placebo) than to the treatment itself (2011). The more effective psychiatrists helped their patients more when using a

Preparing to load PDF file. please wait...

0 of 0
100%
Factors Influencing Successful Psychotherapy Outcomes