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Young people's experience of the therapeutic alliance: A systematic review

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-08-18, 13:53 authored by Tamara DimicTamara Dimic, Aoife Farrell, Elayne AhernElayne Ahern, Sharon HoughtonSharon Houghton

Objective: The aim of this systematic review was to synthesise qualitative evidence on young people's conceptualisation, utilisation and experiences of the therapeutic alliance in individual psychotherapy or counselling and its role in bringing about change.

Method: The thematic synthesis method was used to synthesise data. The methodological quality of included studies was assessed using the CASP checklist for qualitative research. 

Results: Four superordinate analytical themes were generated: (1) valuable therapist qualities, (2) conditions for the development and maintenance of the therapeutic alli?ance, (3) therapeutic processes and (4) barriers to the development of the therapeutic alliance. Findings indicate that young people appreciated the uniqueness of the therapeutic relationship that provided a sense of safety, choice and autonomy. Flexibility and accessibility were noted as important elements of therapeutic alliance building as they elicited a sense of agency. Young people emphasised the non-linear nature of therapy and prioritised process variables such as improvement in self-understanding, self-efficacy and self-worth.

Conclusion: The current systematic review is a comprehensive overview of qualitative studies of experiences of therapy from young people's perspectives. Important practical implications derived from this review as the role of autonomy in the change process and the formation and maintenance of the therapeutic relationship were outlined as important elements in youth therapy.



Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 2023, 1–30


Wiley and Sons Ltd

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