Enhanced Awareness of Countertransference

By Burwell-Pender, Lezlie Ms, Ncc, LPC-Intern; Halinski, Kate H. Ms, Lpc, Ncc | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Fall/Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Enhanced Awareness of Countertransference


Burwell-Pender, Lezlie Ms, Ncc, LPC-Intern, Halinski, Kate H. Ms, Lpc, Ncc, Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


Counselor educators and supervisors bear an enormous responsibility to produce counselors who are not only skillful in their practice, but also professionally responsible. Professional responsibility includes being self -aware of one's internal processes and motivations. This manuscript calls for an enhanced curriculum that emphasizes the understanding, identification, and management of the multidimensional intricacies involving issues of countertransference. Current research is reviewed to reveal the implications for counselor educators and supervisors.

Counselors-in- training are faced with many challenges as they navigate the intricate, and sometimes emotionally charged, nature of the counseling relationship (Cornier &C Nurius, 2003). Counselor educators and supervisors encourage counselorsin-training to understand the nature and dimensions of a client within the therapeutic dyad (Gladding, 2007), as well as understand the depths of their own inner processes as they delve deep into the world of his or her client (Bachelor &C Horvath, 1999; Cavanagh &C Levitov, 2002; Tobin, 2003).

As professionals in the field, we detect a slight disconnect between the value placed on personal growth during counselor development and the way in which counter tra nsference is often approached in counselor education programs. Throughout professional development, counselors-in- training learn how important the counselor-client relationship is to the effectiveness of counseling (Asa y Sc Lambert, 1999; Bachelor SC Horvath, 1999; Beutler et al, 2004). In one introductory counseling text, Counseling: A Comprehensive Profession, Gladding (2007) presented the concept of counter transference as a therapeutic issue that can negatively influence the therapeutic nature of the client-counselor relationship and encouraged awareness of feelings when dealing with such an issue. The disconnect arises when counselor educators and supervisors fail to sufficiently identify hypothetical or observed issues of countertransference, thus denying the counselorin-training an adequate personal and clinical understanding of the many facets of this complex construct (Pope, Sonne, &C Holroyd, 1993). To better understand countertransference and its implications on counselor education and supervision, the following review considers literature and research from early authors-who have helped build the current foundation of knowledge on the subject- to more recent authors.

Hayes (2004) asserted that by of one's humanity, every mental health professional regardless of theoretical alignment, possesses unresolved personal conflicts. Counselor educators and supervisors must illuminate issues of countertransference and provide a safe environment to normalize the experience (Pope, Sonne, Sc Greene, 2006). Often countertransference is presented in a negative light to counselors-in- training. Perhaps this is due to the psychoanalytic language of the concept (Hayes) or the ethical dangers that can arise out of counter transfer enee, including the implications of sexual misconduct (Pope et al.). However, counselor educators may not teach students the difference between coun ter transfer enee feelings and behaviors, or the difference between managed and unmanaged counter transference. As a result, counselors-intraining may fail to understand that feelings of countertransference are normal (Pope et al.), and may make the assumption that if a counselor experiences feelings of countertransference, then he or she is an unethical or inadequate counselor. This attitude may discourage counselors-intraining from bringing feelings of countertransference to the supervision process; subsequently, issues of countertransference may become taboo (Pope et al.).

Pope and Ta bachnick (2006) conducted an exploratory survey of register ed members of the American Psychological Association (APA) to gather baseline data concerning issues of countertransference.

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