This study investigated the predictive utility of assessing clients’ object relations functioning to prognosticate therapy dropout, quality of the early working alliance and psychotherapy process events reported by clients after their first five sessions. Clients accepting a recruitment invitation were administered the thematic apperception test (TAT) shortly after intake, and those still in treatment three to four sessions later rated the working alliance and psychotherapy process events. Participants were 47 clients beginning psychotherapy with advanced doctoral practicum students at a university‐based community‐serving training clinic. The Social Cognition and Object Relations Scales (SCORS), an object relations scoring system for TAT stories, was used to assess object relations functioning. The California Psychotherapy Alliance Scales—Patient form measured four dimensions of the alliance. The Therapy Orientation Process Scales, created from the Psychotherapy Process Q‐set, measured clients’ perceptions of therapy process events as involving relatively more psychodynamic or cognitive behavioural techniques. The SCORS significantly predicted remaining in therapy, client ratings of stronger working alliance and typical therapy process as more psychodynamic than cognitive behavioural. SCORS complexity of representations and capacity for emotional investment in relationships scales were the strongest predictors, especially of the patient commitment facet of the alliance. The findings suggest that (1) beginning psychotherapy with object relations assessment can be useful for treatment planning and (2) the relationship between clients’ object relations functioning, working alliance and greater sensitivity to psychodynamic than to cognitive behavioural interventions depends on the aspect of object relations that is being assessed.