Research Topic

Therapeutic Alliance in Psychological Care for the Physically Ill Patient: Theory and Perspectives

About this Research Topic

The first conceptualization of the biopsychosocial model of care by G. Engel in 1977 initiated psychological interventions with the objective of exploring and treating the psychological issues exacerbated or developed during illness trajectories. However, more evidence is needed regarding the validity and ...

The first conceptualization of the biopsychosocial model of care by G. Engel in 1977 initiated psychological interventions with the objective of exploring and treating the psychological issues exacerbated or developed during illness trajectories. However, more evidence is needed regarding the validity and efficacy of these interventions – which are characterized by high heterogeneity of professionals involved, theoretical models and settings. Furthermore, the clinical and interpersonal skills in the implementation of these interventions are poorly understood.

Importantly, in the context of physical illness (e.g. cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, renal failure), the first therapeutic alliance is between the patients and the whole multidisciplinary team that takes care of them. Specifically, therapeutic alliance is mainly related to adherence and compliance to treatment proposed by physicians and nurses. Therefore, psychological interventions with clinical purposes in these contexts (i.e. hospitals) should be delivered with the awareness that the institutional team is a third factor in the patient-psychologist dual setting.

This Research Topic will focus on psychologists and psychotherapists with the aim of studying and deepening our understanding of therapeutic alliance as the key construct in psychological interventions of physically ill patients.

We welcome interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary contributions to understand how the therapeutic alliance characterizing psychological interventions in health care settings can develop. We are interested in receiving both theoretical and empirical studies on support, psychotherapeutic, and supportive expressive interventions for patients treated for a physical condition, with reference to different illness phases (i.e. preventive, treatment, chronic, follow up, and palliative phases).
This can include (but it is not limited to):
• Developing and strengthening the therapeutic alliance in physical illness-related psychological interventions in clinical settings (e.g. difficulties and boundaries);
• How psychological interventions’ therapeutic alliance can be operationalized and measured in health care settings;
• Similarities and differences with psychological practices in other settings (e.g. private practice, mental health care settings);
• How therapeutic alliance can change according to the multitude of psychological needs that can be present during a physical illness;
• How psychologists’ and psychotherapists’ therapeutic alliance is influenced by the work of other professionals (e.g. counselors, nurses, chaplains, spiritual counselors.);
• How institutional teams can impact, mediate, empower or obstruct therapeutic alliance in psychological interventions;
• Intervention models structured with the aim of including and strengthening psychologists within institutions.

We welcome the following article types: Original Research (both qualitative and quantitative), Opinion, Review, General Commentary, Case Reports, Hypothesis and Theory.


Keywords: health psychology, clinical health psychology, therapeutic alliance, psychological interventions, healthcare settings


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

06 December 2020 Manuscript
17 February 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

06 December 2020 Manuscript
17 February 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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