Client Interpersonal Problems and the Initial Working Alliance

Christina H. Krieg, Terence J. Tracey


This study examined the relationship of client pretreatment interpersonal problems (measured by the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems) to the therapeutic alliance (as measured early in treatment by a self-report version of the Working Alliance Inventory- Short), using multilevel modeling to account for client and counselor variables. Specifically, the correlations of dominance, affiliation and vindictive/self-centered interpersonal problems with the initial working alliance were investigated. Participants consisted of 144 clients and 44 graduate student counselors at a university training clinic in the southwest. Multilevel modeling revealed that there was an interaction between dominance and counselor gender with working alliance scores. Clients who had problems with dominance reported higher working alliance scores with male counselors while clients who had problems with non-assertiveness reported higher working alliance scores with female counselors. Vindictive/self-centered interpersonal problems were associated with lower initial working alliance scores regardless of counselor gender. Implications for clinical practice are discussed.


working alliance; interpersonal problems; multilevel modeling