The effects of four empirically supported therapeutic relationship factors (therapeutic alliance, empathy, goal consensus/collaboration, and group cohesion) on the outcome of psychotherapeutic interventions conducted with individuals living with cancer were systematically reviewed. PubMed, PsycINFO, and CINAHL were searched from their inception through November 13, 2008. Studies of psychotherapeutic interventions targeted to individuals living with cancer, which also empirically assessed the association between any of these therapeutic relationship factors and psychotherapy outcome were included in the review (8 of 742 papers initially reviewed). Information on study methodology and results were abstracted independently by the authors using a standardized form. Results indicated that therapist-rated rapport and group cohesion were significantly related to positive psychotherapeutic outcomes. No studies examined empathy. The literature on collaboration was mixed, but showed some support for increased collaboration being related to positive therapeutic outcomes. Overall the current literature on the role of therapeutic relationship factors in the context of individuals living with cancer is scant, and much more research is needed to determine the overall contribution of these four relationship elements to the outcomes of psychotherapeutic interventions for individuals living with cancer. Results of such studies could have important clinical and research implications.
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