Why Therapist-Client Fit Matters

There are many factors that impact how helpful therapy will be to you. It may have to do with the specific issue bringing you, the particular techniques your therapist engages, or how committed you are to treatment.

Therapists have discussed one particular element since the time of Freud: the client-therapist relationship. The specific ability of two people to come together, to collaborate, and to make sense of the experiences they explore and share together.

Because so many therapists feel certain that the client-therapist relationship is important, a number of psychological studies have looked at this phenomenon.

Today I am writing about a classic psychological study: Relation between working alliance and outcome in psychotherapy: A meta-analysis, by A.O. Horvath and B.D. Symonds. The authors' goal was to statistically examine multiple studies on the client-therapist relationship and empirically determine just how powerful its impact can be on therapeutic success.

In 1991 Horvath and Symonds searched four psychology research databases for studies on the therapeutic relationship and how it relates to therapeutic success. They found 24 client-therapist relationship studies that had been written in the last 12 months. Only individual therapy (not couples, family, or groups) was reviewed.

Horvath and Symonds found that the client-therapist relationship was an important aspect of therapy success across the studies they examined. This was true even when different therapeutic techniques were used or clients stayed in treatment for different lengths of time.

Interestingly, the clients' perceptions of the client-therapist relationship was a better predictor of success than therapists' or independent observers' perceptions.

Therapy can be a long-term commitment with a significant financial cost. Making certain you choose the right therapist is important. If you ever feel something is not quite right in a therapeutic relationship, don't be afraid to speak up. A good therapist will do their best to work with you on improving your relationship or honestly reflect with you about whether someone else might be more helpful for you.