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Building a Therapeutic Alliance

Support to Express Your Preferences


Support to Express Your Preferences

There are diverse ways that a therapist or practitioner can work with you: including the approaches used AND the therapists own personal style too. The Cooper – Norcross Inventory of Preferences (C-NIP), is a questionnaire designed to help people express their preferences for therapy. The form asks questions regarding four possible dimensions of therapist style (shown below) and summarises the results into a score:


  • Therapist directiveness vs Client directiveness
  • Emotional intensity vs Emotional reserve
  • Past orientation vs Present orientation
  • Warm Support vs Focused challenge

Using the Inventory of Preferences

Research attests that therapy works best when it matches clients’ preferences: your C-NIP scores offer a brief and efficient starting point for a genuine exchange regarding your preferences. The conversation it sparks may include a look at the origins of your preferences, input from my own knowledge and experience and reflection on whether I can accommodate any strong preferences you have.

Completing the form is – a matter of preference! Your options for completing the form include: completing it by yourself (see below), completing it in a session with me or not completing it at all. I will offer invitation points early on in therapy, during review sessions and in followup emails: you decide if or how you take up the invitation.

If you have arrived here looking for a therapist: you may want to read about my own preferred ways of working below and see if they match what you are seeking? If you are not sure what your preferences are: you can book an assessment session and we can work through the form together, or you can complete it yourself below.

My Preferred Ways of Working

The answers below relate to the therapists version of the Inventory of Preferences Form. You can just read my answer, or read and compare them to your own completed inventory of preferences (see the following segment for a link to the form). Answers relate to my individual session practice, though you may extrapolate something about the general flavour of my group work too.

Therapist directiveness vs Client directiveness:

  • I am comfortable working with or without a specific goal focus. I can support the development of goals where desired, or explore specific goals that you bring.
  • I will sometimes structure segments of work in response to a particular task: however my overall strength as a therapist lies in qualities of presence and responsiveness.
  • I pass on somatic skills and psychoeducation through loosely structured and responsive segments of learning; in Soul Energy Optimisation sessions, we may agree to the teaching of specific skillsets.
  • I often offer suggestions for followup reading or activities, occasionally we may agree a specific homework task.
  • I both lead and follow in sessions: however I have a preference for developing frameworks and fostering skills that build capacity for client agency.

Emotional intensity vs Emotional reserve:

  • I hold a space that welcomes you going into difficult emotions, along with teaching somatic skills to help you get alongside rather than be eclipsed by them.
  • I sometimes talk about the therapy relationship, so that ‘how we work together’ is transparent and available for you to input into.
  • Sometimes I will bring a focus to the relationship between us (or welcome you bringing it): especially if there is a rupture that may offer the opportunity for an experience of repair.
  • I don’t use cathartic processes or loud music to stimulate emotional expression. Moments of intensity are welcomed however, within a container of therapeutic alliance and somatic skills for regulation.
  • I offer a “feelings first” focus, threaded through with cognitive reflection on the wider systems within which the feelings arise (e.g. personal, cultural, social histories).

Past orientation vs Present orientation:

  • I am comfortable working along the full spectrum of past and present orientation. I welcome work focused in either place, though may question the absence of either in your narratives.
  • I am available and skilled to help you reflect upon themes relating to your childhood AND your adulthood.
  • I am oriented towards focusing on how your past impacts future trajectories: I can best support a future focus within the context of a therapeutic alliance in which your past has been thoroughly explored.

Warm Support vs Focused challenge:

  • I tailor ratios of gentleness and challenge according to your expressed preferences; I also will check out my perceptions with you when I feel something different may be called for.
  • I primarily aim to be supportive and meet confrontation when it arises; I checkin carefully before being confrontational myself. My preference is for confrontation to be sparsely used, contained by thorough preparation and integration.
  • My preference is to offer a higher ratio of listening to interruption: however I will adjust according to preferences and need.
  • I will err towards questioning beliefs and views that appear not to serve you, or gently challenging those which may negatively impact others. I am clear however that therapy is not a space to impose my own beliefs and views upon you.
  • I am able to be alongside a wide range of behaviours as you work things out. Limits include behaviours that exceed my space holding capacity and professional responsibilities as outlined in the ASIS Code of Ethics.

Complete the C-NIP Form Yourself

“Typically, clients will be asked by their therapist to complete the questions in an initial assessment/intake session. However, individuals may also be interested to complete the questionnaire before starting therapy and/or at regular intervals during the ongoing therapeutic work (e.g., review points). 

If you are completing this questionnaire for yourself (online or on a downloaded form), please ensure that you have someone whom you can talk to, should the items cause any distress. In the unlikely event that you are distressed after completing the questionnaire, you can contact the Samaritans or other mental health helplines.”

The Cooper-Norcross Inventory of Preferences (C-NIP)

Inventory of Preferences: Therapist Version

These images show my own completed form, indicating my preferred styles of offering therapy. I completed it in an idiosyncratic way: where I circle nought, this indicates I can move anywhere along the spectrum. Where I circle one number, this clearly indicates my preference. I often found that I could go both ways along a line – within clear limits – so have indicated this by circling two numbers.