Ethical Issues In Counseling

countertransference and the expert therapist, this study looks at how beginning

therapists rate five factors theorized to be important in countertransference

management: (I) anxiety management, (2) conceptualizing skills, (3) empathic

ability, (4) self-insight and (5) self-integration. Using an adaptation of the

Countertransference Factors Inventory (CFI) designed for the previously

mentioned studies, 48 beginning therapists (34 women, 14 men) rated 50

statements as to their value in managing countertransference. Together, these

statements make up subscales representing the five countertransference

management factors. Beginners rated the factors similarly to experts, both rating

self-insight and self-integration highest. In looking at the personal characteristics

which might influence one's rating of the factors, males and females rated

self-insight and self-integration highest. As months in personal and/or group

psychotherapy went up, the factors' ratings went down, and an even stronger

negative correlation was found with age. Generally, beginners rated the factors

higher than the experts. Beginners who are older and/or have had more therapy

rated the factors more like the experts.

The word countertransference was coined by Sigmund Freud in approxirnately the

year 1901, at the dawning of psychoanalysis. In classical psychoanalysis,

transference was seen as a distortion in the therapeutic relationship which occurred

when the client unconsciously misperceived the therapist as having personality

characteristics similar to someone in his/her past, while countertransference

referred to the analyst's unconscious, neurotic reaction to the patient's transference

(Freud, 1910/1959). Freud believed that countertransference impedes therapy, and

that the analyst must recognize his/her countertransference in order to overcome it.

In recent years, some schools of psychotherapy have expanded the definition of

countertransference to include all conscious and unconscious feelings or attitudes

a therapists has toward a client, holding that countertransference feelings are

potentially beneficial to treatment (Singer & Luborsky, 1977). Using more specific

language, Corey (1991) defines countertransference as the process of seeing

oneself in the client, of overidentifying with the client or of meeting needs through

the client.

Common to all definitions of this construct is the belief that countertransference

must be regulated or managed. If unregulated, a therapist's blind spots may limit

his/her therapeutic effectiveness by allowing clients to touch the therapist's own

unresolved areas, resulting in conflictual and irrational reactions. With greater

awareness of the motivating forces behind one's own thoughts, feelings and

behaviors, the therapist is less likely to distort the therapeutic relationship.

Indeed, because countertransference originates in the unconscious, the more

the therapist is able to bring into conscious awareness that which was

hidden in the unconscious, the less he will find that his patient's material

stimulates countertransference reactions. (Hayes, Gelso, Van Wagoner &

Diemer, 1991, p. 142)

Nonfacilitative countertransference is not just the passive act of misperception. It

occurs when, as a result of the misperception, the therapist's response to the client

is based on his/her own need or issue rather than that of the client.

Countertransference is an important issue for all therapists. Beginning therapists

often address the issue in class sessions, groups and supervision, as well as in

impromptu discussions. Generally, no therapist wants his/her unresolved issues to

cloud the therapeutic process. Being in personal therapy and supervision are two

ways a therapist can bring issues to conscious awareness and deal with

countertransference (Fromm Reichmann, 1950; Gelso & Carter, 1985; Heimann,

1950; Reich, 1960), but are there other ways? Are there specific personal

characteristics which enable the therapist to deal successfully with

countertransference reactions?

Although little theory and research address these issues, Hayes, et al. (1991) and

Van Wagoner, Gelso, Hayes and Diemer (1991) studied the personal

characteristics that therapists believe assist them in the management of

countertransference. The five therapist qualities theorized to assist the effective

management of countertransference were (I) anxiety management, (2)

conceptualizing skills, (3) empathic ability, (4) self-insight and (5) self-integration.

Using these studies as an anchor, this study looks at how beginning therapists rate

the effectiveness of the five qualities in helping them manage countertransference,

and it explores whether gender, age and months in individual and/or group


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