Client attachment and goal orientation as predictors of the working alliance in psychotherapy

Cara Michele Mendelow, Fordham University


This study investigated the relations among (a) attachment anxiety, (b) attachment avoidance, (c) approach and avoidance goal orientations, and (d) the therapeutic working alliance in a sample of outpatient psychotherapy clients. Client participants completed a demographics questionnaire along with measures of attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance, and goal orientation prior to beginning psychotherapy with a new therapist. Client participants then completed measures of working alliance and therapy effectiveness following their third therapy sessions. In the present study, client goal orientation was assessed using both nomothetic and idiographic measures. Based on current theory and research findings in attachment, motivation, and psychotherapy domains, a path analytic model was proposed and tested with client goal orientation as a mediator of the relationship between client attachment insecurity and the therapeutic working alliance. Results were mixed with regard to the main research hypotheses. Neither attachment anxiety nor attachment avoidance were directly related to the therapeutic working alliance, though both attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance were significantly related to client social goals. Whereas client social goals were significantly related to the working alliance, client-articulated therapy goals were not significantly related to working alliance. Bootstrap analyses revealed a significant indirect effect of both attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance on working alliance through client social goals. In addition, ancillary analyses did not support the convergent validity of nomothetic and idiographic goal orientation measures. However, current findings were consistent with prior research linking the therapeutic working alliance and client improvement. Limitations of the current study were identified, and implications for theory, practice, and future research were addressed.

Subject Area

School counseling|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Mendelow, Cara Michele, "Client attachment and goal orientation as predictors of the working alliance in psychotherapy" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3312060.