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The purpose of this study was to identify and categorize the variables that clients consider important for forming and strengthening a positive therapeutic alliance. Forty participants were interviewed using the critical incident technique and asked to describe observable behaviors and verbalizations that they thought had significantly helped establish the alliance. A total of 376 critical incidents for alliance formation were documented, 180 of which were judged to be repetitious. This set of 376 statements was consensually sorted into 25 categories, and ad hoc analyses supported the trustworthiness of the proposed categorical system. The results indicate a discrepancy between the client's perspective on the alliance and the understanding of the alliance from the psychotherapist's or investigator's perspective that is predominant in the literature.