Nonverbal Synchrony: A New Approach to Assessing Therapeutic Alliance Ruptures

  • Jack Trevor Friedman The New School For Social Research


Nonverbal synchrony is the degree to which individuals’ nonverbal cues, such as body movement, implicitly coordinate in time. Within the psychotherapeutic dyad, nonverbal synchrony has been shown to correlate with therapeutic alliance and therapy outcome. However, nonverbal synchrony research has yet to address therapeutic alliance ruptures. Furthermore, many difficulties in assessing for ruptures have been identified, due to the fact that rupture assessments rely upon explicit observation of therapists, patients, and/or observers. To address this obstacle the present paper discusses the assessment of ruptures via the analysis of psychotherapy dyads’ nonverbal synchrony. Motion Energy Analysis, an adjunct to the standard assessment of ruptures within the psychotherapy dyad, is described as an efficient and reliable method of therapeutic relational dynamics analysis. Motion Energy Analysis allows for an algorithmic and straightforward approach to quantifying nonverbal synchrony. Clinical applications and relevance to the extant literature are also discussed.

Keywords: nonverbal synchrony, therapeutic alliance, alliance ruptures, motion energy

Author Biography

Jack Trevor Friedman, The New School For Social Research

Jack Trevor Friedman, M.A. is a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student at The New School For Social Research. He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCLA, and a master’s degree in psychology in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. He is also the administrative assistant at an integrative psychotherapy practice in New York City called Embodied Mind NYC.



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