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
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 &
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
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