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The role of the therapeutic alliance in the treatment of substance misuse: a critical review of the literature

Meier, P.S., Barrowclough, C. and Donmall, M.C. (2005) The role of the therapeutic alliance in the treatment of substance misuse: a critical review of the literature. Addiction, 100 (3). pp. 304-316. ISSN 0965-2140


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Background - In the past two decades, a number of studies investigating the role of the therapeutic alliance in drug treatment have been published and it is timely that their findings are brought together in a comprehensive review.

Aims - This paper has two principal aims: (1) to assess the degree to which the relationship between drug user and counsellor predicts treatment outcome and (2) to examine critically the evidence on determinants of the quality of the alliance.

Methods - Peer-reviewed research located through the literature databases Medline, PsycInfo and Ovid Full Text Mental Health Journals using predefined search-terms and published in the past 20 years is considered. Further papers were identified from the bibliographies of relevant publications.

Findings - A key finding is that the early therapeutic alliance appears to be a consistent predictor of engagement and retention in drug treatment. With regard to other treatment outcomes, the early alliance appears to influence early improvements during treatment, but it is an inconsistent predictor of post-treatment outcomes. There is relatively little research on the determinants of the alliance. In studies that are available, clients' demographic or diagnostic pre-treatment characteristics did not appear to predict the therapeutic alliance, whereas modest but consistent relationships were reported for motivation, treatment readiness and positive previous treatment experiences.

Conclusions - The therapeutic alliance plays an important role in predicting drug treatment process outcomes, but too little is known about what determines the quality of the relationship between drug users and counsellors.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2005 Society for the Study of Addiction. This is an author produced version of a paper published in Addiction. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: Review, alliance, retention, treatment outcomes
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health (Sheffield) > School of Health and Related Research (Sheffield) > Section of Public Health (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2009 09:25
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 16:58
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2004.00935.x
Status: Published
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2004.00935.x
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8723

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