Charles J. Gelso, Ph.D., emphasized the importance of a personal relationship between client and therapist.
Photo by Ken Levinson

Charles J. Gelso, Ph.D., professor of counseling psychology at the University of Maryland, stressed the importance in therapy of what he calls the “real relationship,” or the personal bond that can develop between patient and psychotherapist, at a regional meeting at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus on Oct. 6.

In the keynote speech at the meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Society for Psychotherapy Research, Gelso highlighted his study that showed a strong personal relationship between client and therapist bolstered the perceived progress of therapy and often correlated with how well clients and therapists viewed their working relationship.

There has been little empirical research overall, however, on the importance of the personal relationship in psychotherapy, even though it has been recognized throughout the 20th century by psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud, Gelso said.

“While it usually operates silently, this personal relationship manifests itself in many ways and is part of everything that transpires between therapist and client,” said Gelso, who is the co-author of The Psychotherapy Relationship: Theory, Research, and Practice (Wiley, 1998) and editor of the journal Psychotherapy Theory, Research, Practice, and Training. “We are only beginning to scratch the surface in an area that I believe has great research potential.”

Gelso’s study used data from 210 practicing therapists and 187 clients, and developed separate measures for how the patient and therapist viewed a real relationship.”

The daylong meeting, held at the Lowenstein Center, featured workshops on new interventions as well as training and assessment in psychotherapy by more than 60 researchers from universities and hospitals in the mid-Atlantic states. It was sponsored by the Graduate School of Education and chaired by Jairo N. Fuertes, Ph.D., Magis Associate Professor of Education.


Janet Sassi is editor/associate director of internal communications. She can be reached at (212) 636-7577 or [email protected]