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TMatch: Matching Clients and Therapists Based on

Client Preference for Therapist Characteristics

General Description

In TMatch, clients were given the opportunity to express preferences for several areas of characteristics of their therapists. In each of these areas, therapists were assessed with similar questions, and clients were then matched to therapists based on the similarity of the clients' preferences to the therapists' answers. To see more information on any of these areas, click on the links below.

Clients were given the opportunity to express preferences for their therapists' age, sex, sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual), race or ethnicity, social or economic background (upbringing), marital status, and parental status.

Clients were asked for their preferences for therapist religion or spirituality in the four areas of religious background, current religious practice, importance of religion or spirituality in therapist's life, and therapist's minimum level of religious or spiritual expertise.

The standard method of assessing values in psychotherapy research is the Rokeach Value Survey (Rokeach, 1973). The standard Rokeach Value Survey has individuals place 18 terminal values and 18 instrumental values in order of importance as guiding principles in their lives. Instrumental values are "desirable modes of conduct" and terminal values are "desirable end-states of existence" (Rokeach, p. 7). Because of time and space limitations, it was decided to only use the terminal values in TMatch. Clients were asked to order these values according to how they would want their ideal therapist to order them. Again, because of time limitations, clients were asked to order these 18 terminal values into four classes, ranging from most preferred to least preferred, instead of putting all 18 in order. However, dividing 18 values into 4 classes was very confusing for everyone, since it meant classes didn't all have the same number of values in them. For the purposes of the demonstration on this web site, this has been reduced to 3 classes, each containing six values after ordering by clients and therapists.

There is an almost universal acceptance and support from research that empathy is important in therapy. There is some evidence that there are different styles or types of empathy (Messer and Winokur, 1980). In a study that is very relevant to matching clients to therapists, Bachelor (1998) analyzed clients' preferred styles of empathy received from therapists, and discovered four different preferred styles. Bachelor named these four styles Cognitive, Affective, Sharing, and Nurturant. Cognitive empathy is the client's perception that the therapist understands the client's thoughts, and experiences. Affective empathy is the client's perception that the therapist feels the same emotions that the client is feeling. Sharing empathy occurs when the therapist discloses to the client that the therapist has experienced a similar situation or feeling. Nurturant empathy is the client's perception that the therapist is supportive and attentive, and is providing security for the client. This study implied that the more a therapist's actual style of empathy matched a client's preferred style, the more empathic and helpful the therapist would be perceived by the client. For TMatch, clients were shown four boxes containing short descriptions of these four different empathy styles, and asked to put these in order of preference and also to rate how often they would like each type in their therapy.

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Bachelor, A. (1988). How clients perceive therapist empathy: A content analysis of "received" empathy. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 25, 227-240.

Greenberg, L. S., Elliott, R., Watson, J. C., & Bohart, A. C. (2001). Empathy. Psychotherapy, 38(4), 380-384.

Messer, S. B., & Winokur, M. (1980). Some limits to the integration of psychoanalytic behavior therapy. American Psychologist, 25, 818-827.

Rokeach, M. (1973). The nature of human values. New York: Free Press.