The Therapeutic Relationship





Research suggests that an in-depth, collaborative relationship between therapist and client is at the heart of an effective therapeutic process.

The therapeutic relationship is a principal focus of counselling psychologists, and therapists from a humanistic, existential and psychodynamic background. Colleagues within CREST have particularly focused on the experience of in-depth relational connection in therapy, and its implications for counselling and psychotherapy practice. This has been articulated as ‘relational depth’ (Mearns & Cooper, 2005): ‘A state of profound contact and engagement between two people, in which each person is fully real with the Other, and able to understand and value the Other’s experiences at a high level.’ Over the past decade, there has been a flourishing of research into relational depth, with qualitative and quantitative studies looking at the nature of this encounter, the factors that facilitate and inhibit it, and its effect. Relational depth also links closely to dialogue: the experience of engaging with another in a way that truly welcomes and values their ‘otherness’.


  • Knox, R. and Cooper, M. (2015). The therapeutic relationship in counselling and psychotherapy, London: Sage.
  • Cooper, M. (2013). Experiencing relational depth in therapy: What we know so far. In R. Knox, D. Murphy, S. Wiggins & M. Cooper (Eds.), Relational depth: New perspectives and developments (pp. 62-76). Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Cooper, M. (2013). Experiencing relational depth: Self-development exercises and reflections. In R. Knox, D. Murphy, S. Wiggins & M. Cooper (Eds.), Relational depth: New perspectives and developments (pp. 137-152). Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Knox, R., Murphy, D., Wiggins, S., & Cooper, M. (Eds.) (2013). Relational depth: Contemporary perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Cooper, M. (2012). Clients' and therapists' perceptions of intrasessional connection: An analogue study of change over time, predictor variables, and level of consensus. Psychotherapy Research, 22(3), 274-287.
  • Cooper, M., Chak, A., Cornish, F., & Gillespie, A. (2012). Dialogue: Bridging personal, community and social transformation. Journal of Humanistic Psychology.
  • Cooper, M., & Ikemi, A. (2012). Dialogue: A dialogue between focusing and relational perspectives. Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 11(2), 124-136.
  • Wiggins, S., Elliott, R., & Cooper, M. (2012). The prevalence and characteristics of relational depth events in psychotherapy. Psychotherapy Research, 22(2), 139-158.
  • Cooper, M., & Spinelli, E. (2012) A dialogue on dialogue. In L. Barnett & G. Madison (Eds.), Existential psychotherapy: Vibrancy, legacy and dialogue. London: Routledge.
  • Knox, R., & Cooper, M. (2011). A state of readiness: An exploration of the client’s role in meeting at relational depth. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 51(1), 61-81.
  • Knox, R. and Cooper, M. (2010). Relationship qualities that are associated with moments of relational depth: The client’s perspective. Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies 9(3): 236-256.
  • Langdridge, D., Barker, M., & Cooper, M. (2010). The therapeutic relationship. In M. Barker, A. Vossler & D. Langdridge (Eds.), Understanding counselling and psychotherapy (pp. 259-279). London: Sage.
  • Cooper, M. (2009). Interpersonal perceptions and metaperceptions: Psychotherapeutic practice in the inter-experiential realm. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 49(1), 85-99.
  • Cooper, M. (2009). Welcoming the Other: Actualising the humanistic ethic at the core.
  • Mearns, D. and Cooper, M. (2005). Working at relational depth in counselling and psychotherapy, London: Sage.
  • Presentations
  • 2015 (Mar) Narcissism, Melancholia and the Therapeutic Encounter. Symposium on Narcissism and Melancholia: Reflections on a Century. University of Warwick – Department of Sociology,
  • 2014 (Apr) Using systematic feedback in counselling with children and young people, European Association of Counselling Annual Conference, Valetta, Malta.
  • 2010 (May) The therapeutic relationship: What the research tells us, British Association for Sexual and Relationship Therapy, Annual Conference, Warwick.


Additional resources

Potential research projects

  • The relationship between relational depth and outcomes in counselling and psychotherapy
  • Experiences of relational depth in different client groups (e.g., people with autism, older adults)
  • Factors that can facilitate experiences of relational depth/dialogue: qualitative/experimental studies
  • The development of a measure of dialogue

Theme coordinator