How much of a psychotherapy session must be viewed to judge interpersonal qualities of the therapist?


Evaluating therapist, client, and interaction qualities from the viewing of treatment sessions not only occurs in psychotherapy research but is also a tool used in training. Although research has often found judgments of interpersonal qualities from brief portions of an interaction to be highly predictive of an entire interaction, evidence in the psychotherapy context has been mixed. The aim of this research was to assess how well judgments of therapeutic qualities based on portions of a treatment session predict evaluations from the full session. In the study, a series of observers judged therapeutic alliance, empathy, expectancy, and general semantic dimensions of 48 therapists after viewing either a 1-min, 5-min, 15-min, or full-session video recording of treatment. Results revealed evaluations of psychotherapy from observation of session segments generally correlated only modestly with judgments from viewing the entire session. Moreover, with the exception of therapeutic alliance, use of longer segments did not reliably increase the correspondence between segment and full-session ratings nor did observer confidence in their ratings predict the degree of relationship between segment and session judgments. The pattern of findings suggests that observing longer portions of a psychotherapy interaction may not necessarily yield better or more consistent assessments of therapeutic qualities. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Publication Title

Journal of Psychotherapy Integration