Interpersonal predictors of early therapeutic alliance in a transdiagnostic cognitive-behavioral treatment for adolescents with anxiety and depression

Laura Levin, Heather A. Henderson, Jill Ehrenreich-May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The importance of therapeutic alliance in predicting treatment success is well established, but less is known about client characteristics that predict alliance. This study examined alliance predictors in adolescents with anxiety and/or depressive disorders (n = 31) who received a transdiagnostic cognitive-behavioral treatment, the Unified Protocol for the Treatment of Emotional Disorders in Youth (Ehrenreich, Buzzella, Trosper, Bennett, & Barlow, 2008) in the context of a larger randomized controlled trial. Alliance was assessed at session three by therapists, clients, and independent observers. Results indicated that alliance ratings across the three informant perspectives were significantly associated with one another, but that pretreatment interpersonal variables (e.g., social support, attachment security, and social functioning in current family and peer relationships) were differentially associated with varying informant perspectives. Adolescent and observer ratings of alliance were both predicted by adolescent self-reports on measures reflecting how they perceive their interpersonal relationships. In addition, adolescent-reported symptom severity at pretreatment predicted observer ratings of alliance such that adolescents who indicated greater anxiety and depressive symptoms were rated as having stronger early alliances by independent observers. Therapists perceived having weaker early alliances with adolescents evidencing clinically significant depression at intake as compared with adolescents diagnosed with anxiety disorders alone. Future research is needed to examine whether identification of relevant interpersonal factors at intake can help improve initial therapeutic engagement and resulting outcomes for the psychosocial treatment of adolescents with anxiety and depressive disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-230
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive-behavioral
  • Depression
  • Interpersonal
  • Therapeutic alliance
  • Transdiagnostic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Medicine(all)


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