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   2011, Vol. 43 Issue (04) : 420-431     DOI:
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The Working Alliance in Clients’ Eyes: A Qualitative Analysis
ZHU Xu;JIANG Guang-Rong
School of Psychology, Huazhong Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China
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Abstract  The working alliance has been a focus of psychotherapy research for several decades in the western literature. Although theorists differ somewhat in their conceptualizations of the alliance, most of them agree that the core of this construct is the collaboration between therapist and client that emphasizes the contributions of both participants. Most of our knowledge in this field derives from theorists’ hypotheses, and clients’ perspective is often neglected. In fact, it was often assumed that clients use the same conceptual dimensions as therapists do to rate the collaborative processes in psychotherapy. This assumption, however, has been challenged by reported low correlation between client-therapist alliance ratings and by results of qualitative studies that show divergence between clients’ and therapists’ perspectives. Moreover, the literature regarding clients’ actual experiences of the alliance is sparse. In an attempt to examine clients’ perspectives in viewing working alliance and the cultural adaptability of western alliance theories to Chinese culture, the present study sought to delineate the alliance from Chinese clients’ perspective via a qualitative approach and addressed the concordance between clients’ perceptions and theoretician-derived views of the alliance.
Twenty clients at a university counseling center consented to participate in the study. Clients were interviewed by phone about their experiences of being collaborative with their therapists and their opinions about what is important to this collaborative process in counseling. Data were analyzed by a research team using Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) (Hill et al., 2005; Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997). CQR requires that research team members reach consensus about the classification and the meaning of data through three steps, namely, domain coding, core ideas, and cross subject analysis.
Six domains with regard to the collaborative process in counseling emerged from the data: bond, task, engagement, collaboration pattern, development, and influencing factors. Bond is the emotional and personal aspect of the client-therapist relationship, which serves as the emotional base for collaborative work. Task refers to the activities and things client and therapist need to do during the collaborative process, which is the content of the collaborative work. Engagement implies the degree to which client and therapist devote themselves to the process, lending an impetus to the collaboration. These three domains can be viewed as components of working alliance and the other three as descriptions of major features of the alliance.
The study results suggest that the working alliance is perceived by Chinese clients to include bond, task, and engagement. This finding is comparable to current theories of alliance in the western literature and advances conceptualizations of the alliance especially when culture differences are concerned.
Keywords therapeutic relationship      working alliance      qulitative analysis     
Corresponding Authors: JIANG Guang-Rong   
Issue Date: 30 April 2011
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ZHU Xu
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ZHU Xu,JIANG Guang-Rong. The Working Alliance in Clients’ Eyes: A Qualitative Analysis[J]. , 2011, 43(04): 420-431.
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http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlxb/EN/      OR     http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlxb/EN/Y2011/V43/I04/420
[1] ZHU Xu; HU Yue; JIANG Guangrong. The Developmental Patterns of Working Alliance in Counseling: Relationships to Therapeutic Outcomes[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2015, 47(10): 1279-1287.
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