Date of Award

Winter 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counselor Education and Supervision

Committee Director

Danica G. Hays

Committee Member

Theodore Remley

Committee Member

Laurie Craigen


Achieving positive therapeutic outcomes is the goal of all involved in the mental health field. The last 10 years have seen ever increasing demands for recognition of the elements that constitute empirically supported treatments (EST) and research on those elements, not only by professionals in the mental health field but also by third party providers (health insurance companies) and clients. Yet over the course of this increasing demand, research has repeatedly, and authoritatively, demonstrated that the most significant and consistent contributor to therapeutic outcome is the working relationship between client and counselor, not specific theoretically-bound techniques.

In spite of the recognition of the importance of the working relationship, and the many efforts to isolate the ingredients that insure a therapeutic outcome, there is a dearth of consensus on those ingredients. With that lack of consensus in mind this research project sought to explore the interrelationship of three constructs in achieving therapeutic outcomes. The constructs that were investigated were dispositional optimism, the working alliance, and counselor experience.

Participants were counselors who worked with clients presenting with depression. The research was conducted via an Internet based survey. Participants were asked to complete instruments that measured dispositional optimism and working alliance. The amount of counselors experience was determined via self-report on a demographic information sheet. The Working Alliance Inventory (WAI: Horvath & Greenberg, 1989) was used to measure perceived working alliance and the Life Orientation Test—Revised (LOT-R; Scheier, Carver, & Bridges. 1994) was used to measure dispositional optimism.

Both instruments have evidence of validity and reliability in measuring the pertinent constructs, and are easily administered and scored. Upon completion of this study, statistical analyses were completed to determine the degree of relationship among the variables (dispositional optimism, perceived working alliance, and the amount of counselor's experience). In addition to identifying potential relationships, multiple regression analysis was used to determine if either dispositional optimism or the working alliance was useful in the prediction of premature unilateral termination of therapy by clients.

The results indicate that there is a statistically significant relationship among all three of the constructs studied herein. The results gave no support for the use of optimism or working alliance data as a means of predicting premature unilateral client termination. Implications of these results are discussed.