Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Educational and Psychological Studies (Education)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Blaine J. Fowers

Second Committee Member

Debbiesiu Lee

Third Committee Member

Michael S. Robbins

Fourth Committee Member

Etiony Aldarondo

Fifth Committee Member

Nicholas Myers


Because of its political and philosophical launching ground (Arredondo & Perez, 2006), cultural competence did not begin as an empirical research program, and as a result, there remains disagreement about how to define and measure cultural competence. Although the application of cultural competence remains unclear to some psychologists (Fuertes et al., 2006), it is now common knowledge that the therapeutic alliance is a statistically and clinically significant contributor to effective therapy. This pilot study merges two prominent bodies of literature, cultural competence and therapeutic alliance, with the underlying assumption that a culturally competent counselor will be able to provide effective service through the therapeutic relationship (Pope-Davis et al., 2002). This pilot study was designed to provide information about the relationship between therapists' self-reports and their observed behaviors regarding cultural competence (CC), examine how therapists' CC facilitates the formation of working alliances, and examine the role of CC in predicting parent-child discrepancy in alliance. Participants were family therapists and family members involved in a multi-site clinical trial study (Parent Study) evaluating Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT™; Szapocznik, Hervis, & Schwartz, 2003). A total of 14 therapists from 8 community treatment programs from across the country were included in the rating portion of the study. The Parent Study included African American and Hispanic families with adolescents ages 12-17, mostly referred from the juvenile justice system. Scores from Roysircar's Multicultural Counseling Inventory (MCI; 1994) and Cultural Diversity Observer Rating Scale (CDORS; 2005) were compared. Observed therapeutic alliance was evaluated using the Vanderbilt Therapeutic Alliance Scale-Revised. The associations were evaluated with 3 multilevel univariate linear models using HLM software. Since 6 of 14 therapists (43%) completed the MCI, the pilot study was completed without self-reported competence as a predictor of therapeutic alliance (only CDORS was used). The results of this study failed to provide support for the hypothesized relationships between cultural competence and therapeutic alliance. These results are discussed in light of the methodological limitations of this study and suggestions are made to improve future investigations in this area.


Cultural Competence; Family Therapy; Therapeutic Alliance