Therapeutic Working Alliance Focused Training

It has been reported that the therapeutic alliance is the most influential treatment variable that is within a service provider's influence and control.

Therapeutic Alliance Practitioner

The quality of the relationship between practitioners and their clients can be highly influential on the outcomes of the interventions provided. The 'Therapeutic Working Alliance' is consistently measured as one of the most influential factors that service providers have control over. 

The development of a strong therapeutic alliance is a consistent predictor of engagement and retention of clients in treatment. Successful engagement in the treatment process predicts positive treatment outcomes over and above other client factors. 

Hugh completed his PhD research on factors that influence engagement with prison-based drug treatment with a particular focus on the therapeutic working alliance. As such he is considered to be an expert in this area and has been delivering training to practioners in how to build stronger therepaeutic relationships and deliver effective psychosocial interventions for over a decade.


Building Correctional Relationships in Criminal Justice Practice

Therapeutic Alliance training helps practitioners to develop better working relationships with all their clients, but stronger alliances have been shown to be especially effective when working with ambivalent or involuntary client groups. It is now widely recognised within probation practice that the relationship between an offender and their supervisor is “a powerful vehicle for change to reduce reoffending". 

A lack of meaningful adult relationships is a key feature for young people who offend and a therapeutic relationship between a practitioner and a young person can often provide this. Similarly, people experiencing drug or alcohol problems often report unsatisfactory relationships as a contributing factor and supportive therapeutic relationships can provide a model for improved relationships outside of this.

The Scottish Prison Service's 'Unlocking Our Potential' Report, propose that one of the most effective factors in reducing reoffending is:

Relationships between workers and people in custody that are based on mutual respect and trust; are flexible and non-judgemental; and sustained in the move between prison and the community. 

The Scottish Prison Service also recognise the need for a more person-centred, desistance-focused and collaborative approach to working with prisoners in their 'Unlocking Potential: Transforming Lives' Report.

The desistance literature underpinning the NOMS Offender Engagement Programme also recognises the importance of this relationship. It reports that involving offenders in the preparation of the care or supervision plans improves engagement with the process. Taking a collaborative approach to setting the goals of planning helps them to take responsibility for it, increases compliance and improves outcomes.

The Responsivity Principle component of the 'Risk-Need-Responsivity' Model shares many similarities with the concept of the therapeutic working alliance. It is the relationship dimension of service provision and, similarly to the alliance concept, a collaborative approach based on mutual liking and respect, openness and warmth is reported to be the most effective. The Responsivity Principle can be viewed as ‘what works with whom’ and is concerned with the ‘how’ of change. This includes exploration of how the optimal environment for learning and change is created and maintained. Attending to these factors is a key elements in contributing to successful outcomes in criminal justice interventions both in the community and in prison settings.


Additional Areas That Can Be Covered

There are several other areas of particular interest to criminal justice practitioners that can be incorporated into the training including:

  • Pro-Social Modelling (especially the work of Chris Trotter)
  • The Risk-Need-Responsivity Principle that underpins many criminal justice approaches
  • Theories of compliance in prison and community justice settings; how different ‘types’ of client respond to different approaches; and how best to work with each type


Training Overview

  • An Introduction to 'Alliance Fostering Techniques'
  • Effective use of 'Role Induction'
  • Improving the 'Bond' you have with clients
  • Collaborating on the 'Goals' of treatment 
  • Negotiating the 'Tasks' of treatment
  • Avoiding collusion and collusive relationships
  • Recognising and resonding to strains and ruptures in the alliance


Ten Top Tips for Building Strong Therapeutic Alliances (pdf)



Suitable for:
Anyone wising to improve the effectiveness and outcomes of work they do in supportive or helping relationships including drug and alcohol professionals, Youth Workers, Social Workers, and Probation Officers.

One Day

Prior Knowledge:    
Previous experience of work in a supportive or helping profession would be advantageous, though not essential.

All training packages are mapped to the relevant National Occupational Standards

All training packages include a certificate of training for participants and a comprehensive participant's pack that can be customised to include your details.

Although Soma is based in Lancashire, in the North West of England, we deliver drug and alcohol awareness training across England, Scotland and Wales.