This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Effect of Demographic Variables on Therapy Alliance in Couple Therapy Controlling for Relationship Adjustment and Symptom Distress




Walker, Catherine

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


Therapy alliance is a central concern in couple therapy as alliance has been consistently shown to predict therapy outcome. However, little is known about the factors that affect alliance formation. The purpose of this thesis was to examine how the demographic variables of the client and the degree of demographic similarity between the therapist and client affect therapy alliance formation in couple therapy while controlling for relationship adjustment and symptom distress. Specifically, client ethnicity, sex, age, income, and education were analyzed. In addition, age difference, sex difference, and ethnicity difference between the therapist and client were also examined. The sample for this study was composed of couples attending therapy at the Auburn University Marriage and Family Therapy training clinic in Auburn, Alabama. While multiple demographic variables were correlated with female and male alliance scores, in a multiple regression iii model, only one demographic variable, female age, was significantly related to therapy alliance formation. On average, younger female clients reported higher alliance levels. Analysis of study results revealed some findings contrary to previous research results. Relationship adjustment was correlated with alliance formation for males and females, but the relationship was not significant in the multiple regression models. Also, symptom distress, which was the only significant predictor of male alliance in the current study, was was not a predictor of female alliance.