The purpose of this study was to understand the role of hope and how it was expressed by diverse clients in the initial sessions of individual psychotherapy. Five adult clients representing a range of ages, gender, ethnicities, religious/spiritual orientations, and presenting issues were observed in archival videotapes of their 3rd or 5th psychotherapy sessions at two southern California community counseling clinics. Content analysis revealed that client expression of hopefulness during these sessions varied in quantity and quality. Using a modified version of the CHANGE (Change and Growth Experiences Scale; Hayes & Feldman, 2005), the average scores among the 5 participants were low positive hope, medium negative hope, and low pathways. Thus, higher levels of hopelessness (i.e., negative hope) were found than hopefulness (i.e., positive hope and pathways), consistent with previous writings that have viewed psychotherapy as the process of re-instillation of hope (Hubble, Duncan, & Miller, 1999; Lopez et al., 2006). Results also supported Snyder's (2002) current hope theory, revealing 2 separate but related subcomponents of hopefulness: agency and pathways. Specific themes that emerged for client expressions of positive hope, negative hope, and pathways were similar to those found in Snyder's conceptualization of hope because they involved statements of motivation, commitment, belief in one's capacity (or lack thereof for negative hope), desire to attain goals, and identification of specific ways to move toward those goals. But coders also observed specific differences from existing hope constructs, including frequent pathways or agency expressions in reference to the past (in contrast to current present and future-focused definitions), and pathways statements involving cognitive or meaning making strategies (rather than Snyder's definition that is primarily behavioral/action focused). Further, an examination of relationships between hope codes and other CHANGE codes found that positive hope frequently co-occurred with a measure of meaning-making, negative hope was rated with protection/avoidance and unproductive processing, and higher levels of pathways were found with higher perceived relationship quality. The present study, therefore, highlighted the need to expand the conceptualization of hope to include references to the past cognitive expressions of pathways, and the context of its expression in order to attend to various aspects of hope varying across domains of diverse individuals' lives. By eliciting and bolstering clients' expressions of past hope and cognitive or meaning making types of pathways, therapists may enhance clients' agency and ability to identify new strategies or routes to attain their goals. Further, a complex and multifaceted understanding of hope may remind therapists to value and attend to a client's diverse experiences and manner of responding to those experiences, fostering increased understanding and integration of various aspects of the self.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Hope; Psychotherapy; Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Hall, Susan