Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)


Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Jan Faust

Second Advisor

Barry Schneider

Third Advisor

Ryan Black


attachment theory, mentalization, therapists, training


The personal characteristics of the therapist are strongly associated with therapeutic alliance and treatment outcome. Since treatment techniques are often shown to be equally effective, differential outcomes may be attributed to the therapist's early experiences and personality features. The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of childhood relational trauma in predicting specific components of mentalizing skills (i.e., affect consciousness, psychological mindedness, mindfulness, cognitive empathy and theory of mind) among therapists. Participants were 121 clinical psychology doctoral and master's in mental health counseling students (20 males, 101 females) aged 22 to 53 years old (M = 27.26, SD = 5.25). Measures included the Child Abuse and Trauma Scale (CATS), Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS), Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS), Psychological Mindedness Scale (PMS), Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test-revised (RMET), Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI-PT/IRI-EC), Relationship Structures Questionnaire (RSQ) and a questionnaire assessing demographic information, graduate training and interests, personal therapy, objective childhood familial trauma and adult and peer support. Linear regression and hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses (HMLR) were conducted to assess the relationship between childhood relational trauma (CATS) and the various components of mentalization. HMLR was also used to determine whether relational style (anxious/avoidance) as measured through the RSQ moderated between childhood relational trauma and the mentalizing components. Finally, emotional empathy (IRI-EC) was examined as a potential mediator between childhood relational trauma and the mentalizing components using Andrew Hayes' SPSS macro. Post hoc analysis explored associations between the mentalization variables and demographic questionnaire items related to objective childhood familial trauma and support. Results revealed that childhood relational trauma significantly predicted lower levels of affect consciousness, psychological mindedness and mindfulness among therapists. Relational style was not found to be a significant moderator and emotional empathy was not found to be a significant mediator. Growing up with a parent who had a disability or physical illness was significantly associated with higher levels of emotional empathy in therapists. The implications of these results for the training and supervision of graduate level therapists are discussed.

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