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Using Language Style Matching to Measure the Therapeutic Alliance


Researchers propose using language style matching (LSM) to operationalize an implicit aspect of the therapeutic alliance. LSM is measured using Receptivit’s LIWC framework, and is defined as the similarity in rates of function words between two individuals in a conversation and is thought to reflect the extent to which conversational partners are coordinating language styles to achieve a common goal. The study explores the clinical usefulness of LSM in psychotherapy by providing two examples of its application in long-term psychoanalytic treatments. The first example describes LSM analyses of 140 sessions of seven psychoanalytic treatments in relation to outcome measures, while the second provides a case study of LSM triangulated with an observer-rated measure of working alliance in relation to outcome measures. The results suggest that LSM might tap into an implicit aspect of the therapeutic relationship, different from the working alliance measured by observers and relevant for treatment outcome.


The study highlights the potential of LSM as an innovative, objective, and time-efficient analysis of the therapeutic alliance in psychotherapy. By providing empirical examples of LSM's application in long-term psychoanalytic treatments, the study demonstrates how LSM might reveal implicit aspects of the therapeutic relationship, which can affect treatment outcomes. The study also suggests that future larger-scale psychotherapy studies are warranted to explore the relationship between these implicit aspects of the alliance and treatment outcome and relevant clients and therapists' variables. Overall, the use of LSM in psychotherapy might offer a new way of analyzing the therapeutic alliance, leading to improved treatment outcomes.


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