The early therapeutic relationship with MFT trainees: Race, gender, confidence and relationship satisfaction

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marriage and Family Therapy


Linda Stone Fish


Therapeutic relationship, Race, Gender, Confidence, Relationship satisfaction, Marriage and family therapy

Subject Categories

Counseling Psychology | Gender and Sexuality | Race and Ethnicity


The therapeutic relationship is an integral part of the therapeutic process in the mental health field. Most of the research on this topic has been designed and implemented by psychologists, counselors, social workers and medical doctors (Pinsof & Wynne, 1995). Few marriage and family therapists (MFT's) have examined the importance of the therapeutic relationship, which has left a major gap in the body of research for the field. The need for MFT's to assert their voices is long overdue. The purpose of this dissertation is two-fold: (1) to advance the research platform in the field of marriage and family therapy as it pertains to the therapeutic relationship; and (2) to study how therapists and clients' similarity in race, gender, and therapist confidence ratings influenced their satisfaction of the therapeutic relationship. Quantitative methodological approaches, such as an independent samples t-test and a MANOVA were used to analyze the responses of therapist and clients, who were matched in pairs. Subjects for this study met the criteria for participation by either working as a therapist or by being seen as a client at a teaching clinic at a University in the Central New York area. Each participant completed a survey about treatment and the therapeutic relationship after the fourth session. Independent t-test samples indicated that clients reported higher satisfaction with the therapeutic relationship when matched with a therapist who was of the same gender. Client satisfaction was higher than therapist satisfaction regardless of an agreement on perception of therapist confidence. Therapists reported lower satisfaction scores when they mismatched with clients on confidence, as opposed to when they matched. After examining the strength of each variable in isolation and in combination, results for the MANOVA showed that confidence was the most important predictor of satisfaction in the therapeutic relationship.


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