Linguistic Synchrony: Indicator or Facilitator of Therapeutic Bond

LIWC Research Series:

Interpersonal synchrony is an adaptive and pro-social process that has been associated with social bonding, cohesion, and cooperation. Existing research in a therapeutic context has primarily conceptualized linguistic synchrony as an indication of the therapeutic relationship. However, in non-therapeutic contexts, synchrony has been conceptualized as a process that facilities relationship formation and maintenance. The aim of the present study was to examine if an indication model or facilitation model provided a better explanation for the association between linguistic synchrony and the therapeutic bond. Online text-based crisis sessions (N = 350) with clients in suicidal crisis were coded for linguistic synchrony (i.e., similarity of function words) and therapeutic bond. To examine the indication and facilitation models, we used Random Intercept Cross-Lagged Panel Models (RI-CLPM; Hamaker et al., 2015) and compared the model fit of the competing models. The association between linguistic synchrony and therapeutic bond was better explained by the facilitation model (i.e., linguistic synchrony predicting the therapeutic bond) than the indication model (i.e., linguistic synchrony and therapeutic bond occurring simultaneously). However, a combined model that included (a) linguistic synchrony predicting therapeutic bond and (b) the cross-sectional association between therapeutic bond and linguistic synchrony was the best fit to our data. This study contributes theoretical understanding of the association between linguistic synchrony and therapeutic bond. Clinical implications for counsellor practice are discussed.

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Tayler M. S. Colton., The University of British Columbia, 2020