Therapeutic alliance trajectories and associations with outcome in psychodynamic child psychotherapy.

Objective: This study investigated therapeutic alliance (TA) trajectories, their demographic and symptomatic predictors, and associations with outcome in psychodynamic child psychotherapy. Method: The sample included 89 Turkish children (Mage = 6.87, SD = 2.11, 46% girls) with internalizing (37.11%), externalizing (21.14%), and comorbid (38.20%) problems; 12% of the children were in the nonclinical range. Independent raters coded 328 sessions from different phases of treatment using the Therapy Process Observational Coding System—Alliance Scale. Outcome measures were collected at intake and termination (Children’s Behavior Checklist and Teacher Rating Form). Results: Multilevel growth curve modeling indicated that TA showed a quadratic trend (high—low—high) over the course of treatment. The shape-of-change methodology indicated three subgroups following a stable pattern, a slow and an accelerated quadratic TA trajectory. Externalizing problems (teacher report) negatively predicted average TA strength. Boys and children with internalizing problems showed a declining TA trajectory, whereas children with externalizing problems (teacher report) showed an upward TA trajectory. Multivariate multiple regression analyses showed that the average TA (i.e., intercept) and the positive quadratic slope (the high—low—high pattern) positively predicted changes in internalizing and externalizing problems (teacher report). Discussion: This study was the first to show the course of TA development in psychodynamic child psychotherapy, identify a number of child characteristics that facilitate and impede TA. Investigating both the strength and patterns of TA development when examining associations with outcome is important. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)