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An Empirical Investigation of Defense Interpretation Depth, Defensive Functioning, and Alliance Strength in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

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The present study examined the relationship between depth of defense interpretations by therapists, and patient defensive functioning, on the therapeutic alliance in a sample of 36 patients undergoing short-term dynamic psychotherapy. Defense interpretation depth was defined as the degree to which therapist interpretations contained information regarding the motivation for patient defenses and historical origins of the defensive processes (Greensen, 1967). Mean depth of interpretation was compared between sessions that were identified beforehand as either high-alliance or low-alliance sessions using the Helping Alliance Questionnaire (HAq-II: Luborsky et al., 1996). Results indicated that defensive functioning was correlated to defense interpretation depth in low-alliance sessions. Moreover, mean depth of interpretation was also higher in low-alliance sessions, pointing to the possible “destabilizing” effects that these interpretations may have on both defensive functioning and the therapeutic alliance. These results are discussed within the context of previous studies of therapeutic technique in dynamic psychotherapy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Publication date: 01 March 2015

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