The relationship between pre-therapy adult attachment style and the quality of early working alliance in counselling.

Prof Doc Thesis

Smaga, Maria 2011. The relationship between pre-therapy adult attachment style and the quality of early working alliance in counselling. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsSmaga, Maria
TypeProf Doc Thesis

The present study explored the associations between the adult attachment style of the client,
and client ratings of the early working alliance in counselling, and whether characteristics
of attachment style (i.e., dominant and grouped attachment style and degree of insecurity)
were able to predict clients' appraisal of the early working alliance. A total of 31
counselling clients aged between 24 and 57 (M=37.50, S!D=9.50) were interviewed to
determine their attachment style via the Attachment Style Interview (AST). Participants
provided a rating of their perceptions of the therapeutic alliance after the third counselling
session via the Working Alliance Inventory (WAI). Five hypotheses and two further
exploratory questions were examined.
Securely attached participants had significantly higher ratings of the early working
alliance than those with insecure attachment style, who rated the working alliance
progressively lower the greater their degree of insecurity. Correlation analyses that included
variables from the WAI and ASI showed significant positive correlations between "secure"
attachment style and WAI subscales, and negative correlations between the "anxious"
grouped attachment style and the WAI subscales. Likewise, "angry-dismissive" attachment
dominant style was negatively correlated with WAI subscales. Participants' "ability to make
and maintain relationships" was negatively correlated with all subscales of the WAI. Of the
attachment attitudes, "desire for company" was negatively correlated, and "constrains to
closeness" and "mistrust" were positively correlated with WAI global. The predictive utility
of attachment style groupings and characteristics was examined using stepwise regression
analysis, with WAI global scores as the dependent variable. Knowing whether or not an
individual was securely or insecurely attached (grouped security type) was able to predict
19% of the variance in WAI scores. If a participant was insecure, knowing whether or not
they were "angry-dismissive" was able to account for a further 12% of the variance.
The results show ASI would appear to be a useful instrument of adult attachment
style that is recommended for future research and clinical practice. Limitations and
opportunities for further research are discussed, specifically the need for purposive
sampling to explore differences between attachment styles in more depth, and the need to
account for therapist competence and treatment framework as potential moderating

Publication dates
PrintApr 2011
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Jun 2014
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