The Development and Validation of the Relational Depth Frequency Scale

  • Gina Di Malta

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background: Relational depth is defined as ‘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’ (Mearns and Cooper, 2005, p. xii). The concept emerged in humanistic therapies and became an area of interest in research on the therapeutic relationship. Evidence suggests relational depth may be associated to psychological growth and therapy outcome. The Relational Depth Inventory (Wiggins, 2007) provided a first instrument to measure presence of relational depth in a significant event. To this day there is no validated instrument to measure the frequency of relational depth in therapy.
Aims: The principal aim of this project is to develop and validate a scale that can reliably measure the frequency of relational depth in therapy. Other aims include explorations of the demographic moderators of the frequency of relational depth.
Methods: Standard procedures included the creation of an item pool, expert rating of items, and Three-Step Test interviews. A psychometric exploration was used to assess internal consistency in a sample of 556 clients and therapists, convergent validity with the RDI and WAI-SR, divergent validity with a measure of self-compassion, a principal component analysis, and associations in demographic variables.
Findings and further research: The 20-item Relational Depth Frequency Scale(RDFS) has excellent reliability in this sample and good initial construct validity. We uncovered two dimensions of relational depth: enduring relational depth and intense moments of relational depth. Therapists had higher relational depth frequency (RDF) than clients. Qualified practitioners had higher RDF than trainees. Individuals who self identified as spiritual had higher RDF than those who self-identified as atheists.Therapists had higher RDF the longer the therapy was. Clients showed lower RDF between the sixth and twenty-fourth session. The RDFS can be used for further research particularly in assessing the predictive validity of relational depth on outcome.
Date of Award30 May 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorMick Cooper (Supervisor), Joel Vos (Supervisor) & Chris Evans (Supervisor)

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