October 1991

Transference Interpretations, Therapeutic Alliance, and Outcome in Short-term Individual Psychotherapy

Author Affiliations

From the Psychotherapy Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Alberta, Edmonton.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1991;48(10):946-953. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1991.01810340078010

• Relationships between the proportion of transference interpretations provided by therapists and both therapeutic alliance and therapy outcome were investigated for a sample of 64 patients who had received approximately 20 sessions of short-term individual psychotherapy within a controlled, clinical trial investigation. Inverse relationships were found between the proportion of transference interpretations and both therapeutic alliance and favorable therapy outcome for patients with a history of high quality of object relations. An examination of individual sessions revealed evidence that was consistent with two different, but not mutually exclusive, causal explanations. The first concerned the negative effects of high proportions of transference interpretations; the second concerned the reaction of the therapist to the presence of a weak therapeutic alliance. While the evidence from our study was correlational, it was sufficiently strong to warrant alerting clinicians to the possibility of negative treatment effects when high levels of transference interpretations are used with certain types of patients receiving short-term individual psychotherapy.