Theodore Matthew Austin, PsyD, is a 2012 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University New England.

Dissertation Committee

  • James Fauth, PhD (Committee Chair)
  • George Tremblay, PhD (Committee Member)
  • William Slammon, PhD (Committee Member)


Metacommunication, task analysis, time-limited dynamic psychotherapy, therapist self-involving statement

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This study examined how successful metacommunication unfolded in time-limited dynamic psychotherapy (TLDP) using the task-analytic paradigm developed by Greenberg (2007). Specifically, the purpose of the study was to discern the elements, themes, and temporal sequences that were common to effective metacommunication. In accordance with the paradigm, this was accomplished by the creation of a rational model, which combined existing theoretical literature on metacommunication and anecdotal clinical evidence. Next, the distilled components of metacommunication in six high-quality (HQ) sequences were contrasted to the distilled components of six low-quality (LQ) sequences in order to generate an empirical model. These sequences were selected from 66 audiotaped TLDP training sessions and selected for analysis via an aggregate score on several client- and therapist-completed process measures. The empirical model was then integrated with the initial rational model to generate the final rational-empirical model, which can be viewed as a five-component series of essential “tasks” that the therapist-client dyad must complete. The most important client task was clients’ ability to identify their own contributions to, or feelings about, their depictions of thematically repeated interpersonal conflict. The most important therapist tasks involved allowing for the emergence of a pattern in clients’ interpersonal difficulty before making the metacommunicative statement, as well as establishing an empathic, encouraging tone throughout the metacommunicative sequence. The presence of client-therapist mutuality (a shared sense of regard and working together) was deemed to be an essential component of successful metacommunication as well. Study findings suggest that therapists practice “patience” in allowing clients’ depictions of interpersonal or relational conflicts to become thematically established before offering a metacommunicative statement; additionally, therapists should incorporate supportive and encouraging elements into these statements. Lastly, therapists should be cautious of using metacommunication to explore clients’ self-criticism in the context of a poor therapeutic alliance. The absence of a reliable measure of metacommunication with which to select metacommunicative instances for analysis, as well as the possibility of difficult client interpersonal styles which might negatively impact therapists’ metacommunicative attempts are discussed as limitations to the study. Finally, a personal reflection is offered on a misguided metacommunicative intervention.