Patients’ Adult Attachment Interview classification and their experience of the therapeutic relationship: are they associated?

  • Alessandro Talia Institute for Psychosocial Prevention, Heidelberg University Hospital, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.
  • Madeleine Miller-Bottome Department of Psychology, The New School for Social Research, New York, United States.
  • Rachel Wyner William Alanson White Institute, New York, United States.
  • Peter Lilliengren Ersta Sköndal Bräcke University College, Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Jordan Bate | Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University, New York, United States.


In the last decade of his career, Jeremy Safran became increasingly interested in investigating the ways in which attachment representations influence the therapeutic relationship. In this paper, we test such influence in a sample of thirty outpatients who received Brief Relational Therapy by comparing their independently coded pre-treatment Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) with their narratives in a post-treatment interview about the relationship with the therapist (the Patient Relationship Interview at Termination, PRI-T). The PRI-T was coded with the following three measures: i) The Patient Attachment to Therapist Rating Scale (PAT-RS), which assesses the quality of the patient’s attachment relationship to the therapist; ii) the Coherence scale from the AAI, adapted for use on the PRI-T; and iii) the Patient Attachment Classification System (PACS), which measures generalized differences in how individuals convey their experiences and feelings. Results suggest that patients’ AAI predicts how they experience, represent, and communicate about the therapeutic relationship at the end of treatment, as shown by the PAT-RS, the Coherence scale adapted for use on the PRI-T, and the PACS applied to the PRI-T. These findings lend support to Safran and others’ hypothesis that patients’ AAI-status plays a role in patients’ representations of the relationship with the therapist.


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Special Section: the legacy of Jeremy Safran
Relational therapy, Psychodynamic therapy, Attachment style, Adult Attachment Interview, Post-treatment interviews, Therapeutic relationship
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Talia, A., Miller-Bottome, M., Wyner, R., Lilliengren, P., & Bate, J. (2019). Patients’ Adult Attachment Interview classification and their experience of the therapeutic relationship: are they associated?. Research in Psychotherapy: Psychopathology, Process and Outcome, 22(2).