Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Mark Mcminn


Relational competency is regarded as foundational to doctoral psychology training (Mangione & Nadkarni, 2010), yet defining this competency has proven to be an arduous and nebulous task. The connection between relationship competency and strong therapeutic alliance, combined with the lack of knowledge and research around effective assessment and training of the nontangible relational attitudes, knowledge, and skills begs for more research on the implementation of this competency. The aim of the current study was to examine the relationship between student therapists’ technique and relational characteristics and therapeutic alliance outcome during 10 therapy sessions. Participants were 24 first year doctoral students in an APA-accredited doctoral program in clinical psychology. A Q-sort method was used to evaluate the students’ therapeutic approach in working with undergraduate pseudo-clients. The Q-sort results were then factor analyzed, resulting in four distinct therapeutic process variables. Scores on these process variables were then used to explore which therapy techniques or characteristics contribute most to therapeutic alliance, which is indicative of relationship competency. Therapists who were rated higher on relational based factors did not show stronger therapeutic alliance or better therapeutic outcome than those rated higher on technical based factors. The only therapist characteristic found in this study that is shown to impact therapy outcome is the area of therapist intelligence. Nuanced secondary findings between therapist factors and therapy alliance were found and implications for future research are discussed