Alliance and Suicide Prevention Lab

Graduate Students

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Therapist Empathy and its Relationship to the Formation of the Therapeutic Alliance with Youth Clients

By Moira R. Riley, B.A.

An Undergraduate Honors Thesis Defended 2006


Project Overview

This study examined the relationship of therapist response empathy to therapeutic process variables including the therapeutic alliance, participation in treatment, and outcome. This study used a previously recorded sample of audiotapes. The participants were 23 depressed adolescents with a history of a prior suicide attempt who completed treatment. Therapist response empathy was measured using the Revised Response Empathy Rating Scale (Elliott, Caskey, Pistrang, 1982), an observational coding system. This was then correlated with observed and self-reported ratings of the therapeutic alliance, treatment participation, and outcome. Therapist response empathy was found to be moderately correlated with rating of the therapeutic alliance. It was also found to be strongly and significantly correlated with treatment participation, but therapist response empathy was not found to be directly correlated with treatment outcome. These findings suggest that the therapist behavior of empathy may play a part in important mechanisms of the therapeutic process, but are not sufficient for therapeutic change.