Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Therapist charisma and its impact: A phenomenological study
by Otterson, Brooke, Psy.D., Alliant International University, 2015, 150; 3735209
Abstract (Summary)

Charisma has been intently studied in professions that value social influence. A notable exception has been in the field of psychotherapy, despite the central importance of therapists’ ability to engage and influence their clients. The present study is the first to qualitatively examine the phenomenon of therapist charisma as perceived by clients. The researcher conducted a semi-structured interview with 17 participants in order to gain a sense of how they perceived, related to, and described their charismatic therapists and their therapeutic efficacy. Participants were an ethnically diverse adult sample, with an average age of 42, who had a minimum of 8 sessions with a licensed therapist they considered to be charismatic. Only those participants who rated their therapist’s charisma as 7 or above on a 1-10 scale were included. Themes identified across transcripts highlighted the importance of common factors, especially relationship factors associated with the quality of the alliance, in determining clients’ evaluations of the therapy relationship and outcome. Responses suggest that participants’ perceptions of charisma were interwoven with common factors valued in therapists. Of participants reporting positive experiences, 67% described their therapist’s charisma as relationally and therapeutically helpful. Only 2 participants reported their therapist’s charisma as a negative. Multiple positive differences were reported between charismatic and non-charismatic therapists, such as greater rapport, comfort, relatability, and quality of working alliance. Participants identified characteristics and behaviors in their therapists commonly associated with charisma in the literature (e.g., animated voice and body language, emotional expressiveness, quality of eye contact, articulateness) and linked several positive descriptors with their therapist’s charisma (e.g. engaging, intriguing, friendly, happy, genuine, funny, warm). The interweaving of charisma within themes makes it difficult to gage the specific impact of charisma on participants’ experiences. The possibility is put forth that common factors described in this study refer to the content of what therapists delivered in therapy and charisma refers to the style with which therapists delivered content. Results indicate it is reasonable to be curious about how charisma might enhance a therapist’s effectiveness. The fact that clients in this study describe their therapists’ charisma as relationally and therapeutically helpful suggests it is worthy of further investigation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Heide, Frederick
Commitee: Okubo, Yuki, Wyatt, Randall
School: Alliant International University
Department: San Francisco, CSPP
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 77/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Clinical psychology
Keywords: Charisma, Common factors, Social influence, Therapist charisma
Publication Number: 3735209
ISBN: 978-1-339-24027-5
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