Experimental Manipulation of Mood States on Judgments of the Working Alliance and Alliance Ruptures

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Experimental Manipulation of Mood States on Judgments of the Working Alliance and Alliance Ruptures

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The working alliance is a key component in the therapeutic process, regardless of the theoretical orientation, and is often linked to successful client outcomes. Though alliance is often assumed to lead to outcome, evidence of a causal direction of the alliance-outcome relationship remains ambiguous. It remains possible that the correlation represents the influence of outcome on perceptions of the alliance. Given that mood is known to influence other judgments and perceptions, it is possible that clients’ post-session mood might contribute to alliance ratings. The aim of this research was to test this alternative hypothesis that outcome may lead to alliance perceptions by using mood states as a proxy for client outcome. Clients (N = 177) were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: (a) negative mood induction or (b) positive mood induction to examine the impact of mood on their ratings of the alliance and alliance-related constructs. There were no statistically significant differences between mood conditions. Clients were not more likely to recall experiencing an alliance rupture depending on the mood condition, nor was an experienced rupture perceived as more intense or more poorly resolved in the negative mood condition. These findings do not support the alternative hypothesis that mood (a proxy for outcome) influences alliance perceptions. This could indicate that mood does not influence alliance perceptions or that clients are able to correct for the effect of mood on these judgments. Future research might replicate this study in other settings, client populations, or with specific types of therapies.


A Plan B Research Project submitted to the faculty of University of Minnesota Duluth by Kelly R. McKnight in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, June 2021. This item has been modified from the original to redact the signatures present.

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McKnight, Kelly R. (2021). Experimental Manipulation of Mood States on Judgments of the Working Alliance and Alliance Ruptures. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/220346.

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