The Effect of Working Alliance on Client Drop-out for Persons with Disabilities in a State-Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Agency

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The existence of a working alliance between a counselor and a client has been

viewed as a critical component of the therapeutic process in the psychological literature

(Bachelor, 1995). The construct of working alliance has been the focus of interest in

research literature as a measure of positive therapy outcomes. According to Horvath

(2001 ) two decades of empirical research have consistently linked the quality of the

alliance between therapist and client with therapy outcome. The 1998 Amendments to the

Rehabilitation Act mandate that persons with disabilities must be "active and full

partners" in the rehabilitation process. In the federal-state rehabilitation setting there is

limited time to form an alliance( Safran&Muran, 1998), so that the initial interview

becomes critical in engaging the client in this process. Therefore, this study measured

the working alliance after the initial in-take session.

Working alliance was measured by the Working Alliance Inventory (WAI)

developed by Horvath & Greenberg (1989). The dependent variable was the

Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) which represents the agreed upon goals and

tasks between the DORS counselor and client. The major hypothesis was that a strong

working alliance between counselor and client would predict an IPE, and a poor alliance

would not.

The study participants were 111 persons with disabilities who applied and were

found eligible for services in FY 2006 through the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation

Services (DORS). The investigation was conducted at 16 DORS offices throughout the

state .

The major finding was the lack of any significant relationship between working

alliance and IPE . The second major finding was the clients gave generally high WAI

scores to DORS counselors and 59 % (66) had an IPE. Despite this positive finding ,

those with high WAI scores were no more likely to have an IPE .Additionally, there was

an effect of disability category upon the WA. In summary, the findings suggest that

factors external to the WA may be more significant barriers to employment outcomes for

DORS clients. The implications for people with disabilities, counselors, and counselor

educators are discussed within the context of these findings.