The patient-psychotherapist relationship

Pedagogical objectives

  1. Knowledge of the history and of the epistemology of the discipline.
  2. Fundamental knowledge in the various theoretical fields of the discipline, in their epistemological currents and in their methodological approaches.
  3. Skills to refer a matter or a question to one or more theoretical currents.

Approach the patient-psychotherapist relationship, through theories and concepts belonging to different psychotherapy orientations.

Sensitise students to the reflective and relational skills of the psychotherapist, faced with the subjective reality of the patient, his expectations and his interpersonal style. Invite students to apply the knowledge they have acquired in practical situations (role play, in-class exercise based on an account of psychotherapy sessions co-written by the therapist and the patient).


Applied disciplinary knowledge

Methodological know-how (introduction) : integration of experimental and clinical observation methods, of interview methodologies, of survey and questionnaire scale development methodologies, introduction to psychological testing, to psychometric and docimological methodologies and to group dynamics techniques.

Sensitising to different aspects of the professional practice of psychology

Transferable skills

Demonstrate information-seeking skills, analytical and synthesis skills

Research, analyze and use information from different sources and media (paper and electronic) in relation with the current academic training, process the information in order to produce a synthetic document, and disseminate it through digital media  (texts, tables, slideshows, videos, bibliographies ...).

Carry out a study: identify and develop a research question in a predefined context, build and develop an argument, interpret data and results, write an abstract, suggest areas of further exploration.  

Engage in self reflection, display critical thinking, debate, develop a counterargument or defend one’s ideas.
Master at least one foreign language (English).

Generic pre-professional skills

Acquire knowledge on the career paths associated with the academic discipline.
Develop one’s ability to use knowledge and skills through exercises simulating real-life professional situations.
Participate in the process of knowledge creation, dissemination and promotion.

Acquire knowledge about the frame in psychotherapy, as well as on the place of the patient and that of the therapist inside this frame.
Know how to describe the patient-psychotherapist relationship, using concepts belonging to different approaches (psychodynamic, humanistic, cognitive-behavioural).
Have an essential knowledge about the therapeutic alliance and understand the role of the psychotherapist in its establishment.
Become familiar with research findings on the topic of the therapeutic alliance or on the qualities of efficient psychotherapists.
Describe the basic principles of metacommunication in psychotherapy and identify them in a given context (clinical illustration)
Approach aspects of the limits for the patient-psychotherapist relationship (in a given context).


Intermediary-advanced level in English

Pedagogical tools

  • Powerpoint presentations of theoretical aspects
  • Recommended reading-excerpts
  • Role play
  • Excerpts of video-taped psychotherapy sessions

Course outline

  1. A meeting between two «otherness» in a well-defined setting : patient, therapist, psychotherapeutic frame.
  2. Patient-psychotherapist relationship in different approaches : psychodynamic, humanistic, cognitive-behavioural.
    -Key-concepts belonging to these approaches : ▪ transference/countertransference (psychodynamic), ▪ unconditional positive regard, congruence, empathy (humanistic), ▪ patient expectations-Wright and Davis, 1994 (cognitive-behavioural)
  3. Therapeutic alliance and its key-role in a successful psychotherapy. The three dimensions of the therapeutic alliance (Bordin, 1979) : bond, goals and tasks.
  4. Qualities of efficient psychotherapists.
  5. Metacommunication in psychotherapy.
  6. Limits for the patient-psychotherapist relationship.


Norcross, J.C.,Wampold, B.E.(2011).Evidence-based therapy relationships : Research conclusions and clinical practices. Psychotherapy,48(1),98-102
Sommers-Flanagan, J., Sommers-Flanagan, R. (2004). Counseling and psychotherapy theories in context and practice. New Jersey : John Wiley and Sons
Yalom, I.D., Elkin, G. (1974). Every day gets a little closer : a twice-told therapy. New York : Basic Books

Credit hour


Tota number of hours


Number of hours for lectures