Developing good interpersonal relationships is one of the main impediments for people with an antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). However, in treatment of psychiatric disorders, establishing a strong therapeutic alliance (TA) is important for effective treatment. Nevertheless, there is little knowledge on how to establish this TA with this challenging patient group. This study investigates which factors are important in TA development.
For this study, a qualitative research methodology is applied. In-depth interviews with therapists experienced in treating ASPD were conducted and analysed through thematic analysis.
The analysis revealed six themes important in alliance formation: the patient’s needs, regulating interpersonal dynamics, connective attitude, connective skills, treatment process and treatment goals. Each theme is defined including aspects of the recommended therapeutic attitude and required skills for therapists working with patients with ASPD.
This study determined that, for therapists working with patients with ASPD, several key factors are essential in establishing a strong TA. These factors include the ability to be firm, authentic, non-judgmental and genuinely involved. An attentive presence is crucial, in which the therapist takes initiative in establishing contact and makes the patient feel that he is truly seen as an autonomous and equal person. In doing so, the therapist needs to provide clarity and structure while remaining perceptive to boundary violations. The therapist must be able to set limits using a clear yet kind tone of voice. Furthermore, it was notable that an intensive appeal is made to the therapist’s reflective capacity in these treatments.