The role of the therapeutic relationship in the association between interpersonal behaviors and outcome: Comparison of two competing models

Tohar Dolev, Sigal Zilcha-Mano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The patient–therapist relationship may be the mechanism behind the effect of pretreatment interpersonal patient behaviors on the outcome of psychotherapy for depression, or the factor determining for whom interpersonal behaviors affect outcome. We seek to establish which of these two alternatives receives empirical support. Method: We conducted a secondary analysis of the findings from the Treatment for Depression Collaborative Research Program to examine two alternative models. First, a deterministic model, in which clients’ ability to create satisfactory interpersonal relationships affects their ability to build a strong therapeutic relationship, which in turn affects outcome; and second, a compensation model, in which patients in a treatment focusing on interpersonal mechanisms of change and not in placebo, who compensate for their maladaptive pretreatment interpersonal behaviors by building a strong therapeutic relationship, benefit from treatment more than do patients who cannot build such relationship. Results: The compensation, rather than the deterministic model, was supported, suggesting that the interpersonal behavior–outcome association is significantly moderated by the therapeutic relationship in interpersonal psychotherapy and not in placebo. Conclusions: Findings support an optimistic view whereby patients seeking treatment for maladaptive interpersonal behaviors can achieve good outcomes if work on interpersonal relationships is conducted in the presence of a strong therapeutic relationship. Clinical or methodological significance of this article: This study highlights an important optimistic view in which patients with maladaptive interpersonal style who can form a strong therapeutic relationship can benefit from treatment focusing on interpersonal relationships.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)553-564
Number of pages12
JournalPsychotherapy Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 3 Sep 2019


  • corrective experience
  • interpersonal behaviors
  • therapeutic relationship

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology


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