Objective: The authors quantified nonverbal synchrony--the coordination of patient's and therapist's movement--in a random sample of same-sex psychotherapy dyads. The authors contrasted nonverbal synchrony in these dyads with a control condition and assessed its association with session-level and overall psychotherapy outcome.
Method: Using an automated objective video analysis algorithm (Motion Energy Analysis; MEA), the authors calculated nonverbal synchrony in (n = 104) videotaped psychotherapy sessions from 70 Caucasian patients (37 women, 33 men, mean age = 36.5 years, SD = 10.2) treated at an outpatient psychotherapy clinic. The sample was randomly drawn from an archive (N = 301) of routinely videotaped psychotherapies. Patients and their therapists assessed session impact with self-report post-session questionnaires. A battery of pre- and postsymptomatology questionnaires measured therapy effectiveness.
Results: The authors found that nonverbal synchrony is higher in genuine interactions contrasted with pseudointeractions (a control condition generated by a specifically designed shuffling procedure). Furthermore, nonverbal synchrony is associated with session-level process as well as therapy outcome: It is increased in sessions rated by patients as manifesting high relationship quality and in patients experiencing high self-efficacy. Higher nonverbal synchrony characterized psychotherapies with higher symptom reduction.
Conclusions: The results suggest that nonverbal synchrony embodies the patients' self-reported quality of the relationship and further variables of therapy process. This hitherto overlooked facet of therapeutic relationships might prove useful as an indicator of therapy progress and outcome.
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