City Research Online

Attachment theory and therapeutic relationships

Boysan, Zehra (2015). Attachment theory and therapeutic relationships. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


The aims of this study were to examine the associations between current self-reported attachment styles, retrospective reports of childhood experiences, and the development of the therapeutic alliance. It was hypothesised that anxious and avoidant attachment would be correlated with negative childhood experiences and that both attachment anxiety and avoidance would be inversely correlated with the therapeutic alliance. The third hypothesis stated that negative childhood recollections would correlate inversely with the quality of the therapeutic alliance and that this association would be mediated by adult attachment styles. One hundred adult counselling/psychotherapy clients referred for psychological therapy in primary care were asked to complete the Childhood Experiences Survey (Meyer, 2005) as a measure of retrospective childhood experiences, the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale (Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998) as a measure of adult attachment styles and the Working Alliance Inventory (WAI) (Horvath & Greenberg, 1989) as a measure of working alliance. The first hypothesis which stipulated that negative childhood experiences would be correlated with anxious and avoidant attachment style was partially supported. Avoidant attachment style but not anxious attachment style was significantly and moderately strongly associated with rejection experiences as measured by the CES. The second hypothesis, which stated that both anxious and avoidant attachment would be correlated with the therapeutic alliance, was also partially supported. Avoidant attachment but not anxious attachment correlated significantly and inversely, moderately strongly with the therapeutic alliance. The third hypothesis stated that the relationship between childhood experiences recollections and the alliance would be mediated by both attachment anxiety and avoidance. The third hypothesis could not be explored further as childhood experiences did not correlate significantly with the therapeutic alliance. Findings and implications for further research are discussed.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Boysan, Zehra (redacted).pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (2MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login