Working alliance between professionals and (semi-)mandated clients
Research shows that professionals working with (semi-)mandated clients are most effective when they combine dual roles of control and care / support. They offer support to their clients, but must also assess safety risks, impose rules and ensure that clients keep to the agreements that have been made. This dual role presents professionals with certain dilemmas or questions, such as: ‘How do I promote my client’s self-management while simultaneously providing guidance?’ or ‘How do I maintain the trust with my client while I am also obliged to write reports?’
The insights gained from this research are aimed at improving the working alliance between professionals and (semi-)mandated clients. Our main interest is to investigate whether discussing this working alliance with the help of the Alliance Monitor contributes to improved cooperation, as well as how to best go about this.
Our research in probation services identified and tested four characteristics of the working alliance with (semi-)mandated clients: Goals and Conditions, Trust, Bond and Reactance. We developed the Alliance Monitor, which was later tested in other judicial settings (probation, integration into the labour market, youth assistance/protection services, social services and debt counselling). In total, 229 professionals and 225 clients completed the Alliance Monitor. We also examined whether professionals and clients considered the Alliance Monitor to be a suitable tool to discuss the working alliance.
It turns out that many professionals appear to be ‘unknowingly competent’ in building and maintaining a functional working alliance with their clients. However, they lack (explicit) knowledge about how they could increase their effectiveness by consciously using the four characteristics of the working alliance. Moreover, clients tend to have a lot of experiential knowledge about this theme. They emphasise that talking about a working alliance characterised by reactance is a good way to get their supervision and motivation back on track.
This project led to the development of ‘thoughtful action’. . For this, we developed a number of products that can also be implemented in the context of education:
- Whiteboard movie: the working alliance explained in 3 minutes
- Henskens, R. De Vogel, V. & Menger A. (2018). How to build up a working alliance with mandated clients: a four year project in the Netherlands. Article published on the website of the Confederation of European Probation (CEP): https://www.cep-probation.org/how-to-build-a-working-alliance-with-mandated-clients-situation-of-a-four-year-project-in-the-netherlands/
- Sturm, A., Menger, A., De Vogel, V., Huibers, M.J. H. (2019). Predictors of Change of Working Alliance Over the Course of Probation Supervision: A retrospective Cohort Study. International Journal of Offender therapy and Comparative Criminology. 1-21 doi/10.1177/0306624X19878554
- Sturm, A., De Vogel, V., Menger, A., Huibers, M.J. H. (2019). Changes in Offender-rated Working Alliance in Probation Supervision as Predictors of Recidivism (revision submitted).
>>> Further publications and results (in Dutch)
01 September 2015 - 01 November 2019
- Baseline measurement: 3 months after the start, Alliance Monitor questions for professionals and clients.
- Interim measurement: Implementation of the Alliance Monitor among professionals and clients and telephone survey among professionals immediately after reviewing the Alliance Monitor.
- Final measurement: 3 months after the interim measurement, a repeat of the baseline measurement with professionals and clients and in-depth interviews with professionals.
Collaboration with knowledge partners
This project involves the collaboration of five research groups from HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht with five Dutch organisations and the Flemish Probation Service. Please click here to view all knowledge partners.
For follow-up study 3, we received a subsidy from the Taskforce for Applied Research.