Therapeutic Alliance in Face-to-Face and Telephone-Administered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

New Study (1)

Telephone-administered therapies have emerged as an alternative method of delivery for the treatment of depression, yet concerns persist that the use of the telephone may have a deleterious effect on therapeutic alliance. The purpose of this study was to compare therapeutic alliance in clients receiving cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression by telephone (T-CBT) or face-to-face (FtF-CBT).

We randomized 325 participants to receive 18 sessions of T-CBT or FtF-CBT. The Working Alliance Inventory (WAI) was administered at Weeks 4 and 14. Depression was measured during treatment and over 1 year posttreatment follow-up using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression and Patient Health Questionnaire-9.

There were no significant differences in client or therapist WAI between T-CBT or FtF-CBT (Cohen’s f² ranged from 0 to .013, all ps > .05). All WAI scores predicted depression end of treatment outcomes (Cohen’s f² ranged from .009 to .06, all ps < .02). The relationship between the WAI and depression outcomes did not vary by treatment group (Cohen’s f² ranged from 0 to .004, ps > .07). The WAI did not significantly predict depression during posttreatment follow-up (all ps > .12).

Results from this analysis do not support the hypothesis that the use of the telephone to provide CBT reduces therapeutic alliance relative to FtF-CBT.

Stiles-Shields, C., Kwasny, M.J., Cai, X., & Mohr, D.C. (2014). Therapeutic alliance in face-to-face and telephone-administered cognitive behavioral therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(2), 349-354. doi: 10.1037/a0035554.