9.1 – The therapeutic relationship with clients with phobic, obsessive-compulsive, eating and depressive disorders: Which meanings prevail?

Volume 9, Number 1, April 2021

The therapeutic relationship with clients with phobic, obsessive-compulsive, disorders: Which meanings prevail?
by Valeria Ugazio, Stella Guarnieri, Pasquale Anselmi, Daniele Castelli e Marisa Pandolfi

Do clients with phobic, obsessive-compulsive, eating, and depressive disorders interact with their therapist using ways of relating whose respective meanings are characteristic of the semantics of freedom, goodness, power, or belonging? And does the therapist take a position in tune with clients’ dominant semantic? This study aims to answer these questions to verify the hypothesis, derived from Ugazio’s family semantic polarities theory: that there is no single way of building the therapeutic relationship, rather, there are as many ways as there are semantics and related disorders. We applied the Semantic Grid of Therapeutic Relationship to 120 video-recorded sessions, the first two sessions of 60 clients with phobic (12), obsessive-compulsive (12), eating (12), depressive or bipolar disorders (12) and problems with daily life (12). The SG-DTR allows the detection and classification of the Interactive Semantic Polarities (ISPs), in which client and therapist, mainly non-verbally, move away from their ascribed roles. The results confirm that the lived story between therapist and client in the here and now of the session is constructed in different ways according to the patients’ disorder. This study opens a new research perspective on the therapeutic relationship and shows the application of a method which can also be used by clinicians, especially when they are facing an impasse during the therapy.

Keywords: therapeutic relationship, therapeutic alliance, phobic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, eating disorders, depressive disorders.