Touchstones of connection: a concept mapping study of therapist factors that contribute to relational depth

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jodi L. Bartley (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Craig Cashwell

Abstract: It is well established that the therapeutic relationship is an important factor in the success of counseling (Lambert & Barley, 2001; Norcross & Wampold, 2011; Orlinsky, Rønnestad, & Willutzki, 2004). Furthermore, researchers (Price, 2012; Wiggins, 2013) have found that relational depth - characterized by profound moments of connection (Mearns & Cooper, 2005) - accounted for unique variance in client outcome over and above the therapeutic relationship. Therapists' experiences during moments of relational depth have been explored (Cooper, 2005a; Macleod, 2013); however, researchers have yet to validate those specific therapist factors that contribute to the ability to invite and facilitate moments of relational depth with clients. Learning more about these factors could inform relational depth research, therapist training, and supervision. The primary aim of the following study was to better describe the relational depth process using concept mapping (Kane & Trochim, 2007; Trochim, 1989a) to explore therapist factors that contribute to the ability to invite and facilitate moments of relational depth with clients. Twenty peer-nominated therapists participated in the first round of data collection, generating a synthesized set of 90 therapist factors believed to contribute to the ability to invite and facilitate moments of relational depth. Eighteen of these initial therapists participated in the second round of data collection, sorting and rating the statements based on importance and frequency. From there, the multivariate analyses of nonmetric multidimensional scaling and agglomerative hierarchical cluster analysis were performed in order to create pictorial concept maps of the participants' aggregated conceptualizations. Furthermore, the importance and frequency ratings were represented by statement in a table and by cluster in a bar graph. Finally, nine therapists participated in the third phase of data collection - a focus group where they were invited to interpret the results of the study. The participants named the ten clusters: Tuning In, Offering Genuine Connection, Practicing Presence, Being Emotionally Present, Using Engagement Skills, Bringing Immediacy, Structuring Intentionally, Facilitating Intimate Connection, Attending with Focus, and Honoring the Client. Furthermore, as part of this focus group, the participants also offered their impressions of the importance and frequency ratings, described the ways they developed the capacity to invite and facilitate moments of relational depth, explored the results in light of the three positions of the therapist's use of self (Rowan & Jacobs, 2002), and offered implications for educators, supervisors, and relational depth researchers. Six major findings emerged from the results of this study: (a) relational depth appears to represent a synergy of Rogers' (1957, 1980, 1989) core conditions; (b) experiences of relational depth seem to be predicated on therapists' intentional creation of a therapeutic structure and their deliberate use of specific counseling skills; (c) therapists seem to have developed the capacity to relate on deep levels after experiencing this type of engagement in their relationships with others (e.g., family members, therapists, supervisors, mentors, clients); (d) experiences of the transpersonal may perhaps set people on the path toward becoming therapists and eventually cultivating the capacity to engage on deeper levels; (e) relational depth appears to be trainable, though individuals must have some capacity and desire, and finally; (f) relational depth appears to exist within and incorporate all three positions of the therapist's use of self (Rowan & Jacobs, 2002). Finally, these six results are explored in light of the literature on relational depth and implications and suggestions are offered for educators, supervisors, and researchers.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Relational depth, Therapeutic relationship
Therapist and patient

Email this document to