Physiological synchrony in psychotherapy sessions

Tschacher, Wolfgang; Meier, Deborah (2020). Physiological synchrony in psychotherapy sessions. Psychotherapy research, 30(5), pp. 558-573. Routledge 10.1080/10503307.2019.1612114

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OBJECTIVE: In this proof-of-principle study, a convenience sample of 55 dyadic psychotherapy sessions conducted by one therapist was analyzed. This study aimed at exploring physiological synchrony in naturalistic psychotherapy sessions and the association of such synchrony with self-report ratings. METHODS: The electrocardiograms and respiration behavior of both therapist and client were monitored simultaneously. Four clients were included, and session outcome was documented by session reports in two clients. From electrocardiograms, heart rate and heart rate variability were derived in consecutive 15-second intervals throughout sessions. Entire sessions (average duration, 51 min) were assessed for physiological synchrony of therapist's and client's respiration, electrocardiogram, heart rate, and heart rate variability. Two methods of synchrony computation were applied to the time series: windowed cross-correlation and correlation of local slopes (concordance). Both methods included surrogate controls using segment-wise shuffling. RESULTS: Significant synchrony of three measures, but not of electrocardiograms, was present in this dataset. In regression models, we found associations between synchronies and alliance ratings, and further self-report variables. CONCLUSIONS: Results support the existence of physiological synchrony in this collection of psychotherapy sessions, which speaks for the sympathetic and parasympathetic coupling between this therapist and her clients and its link with ratings of the therapy process. The feasibility of deriving signatures of synchrony of physiological signals with the described methodology was corroborated. The findings now await generalization by further research.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Translational Research Center
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Psychotherapy

UniBE Contributor:

Tschacher, Wolfgang and Meier, Deborah

Subjects:

100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health

ISSN:

1050-3307

Publisher:

Routledge

Language:

English

Submitter:

Wolfgang Tschacher

Date Deposited:

18 Dec 2019 14:44

Last Modified:

15 May 2020 01:31

Publisher DOI:

10.1080/10503307.2019.1612114

PubMed ID:

31060474

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.135581

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/135581

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