Developing countertransference awareness as a therapist in training: The role of containing contexts

Shelley Gait, Andrea Halewood

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The psychodynamic literature suggests that countertransference is an inevitable part of therapy and a significant feature of the client-therapist relation- ship. However, countertransference is also considered to be a ‘double- edged sword’: when it is reflected on by the therapist, it can offer valuable insights into the therapeutic relationship, but when it remains outside of aware- ness and therefore unmanaged it can result in the therapist unwittingly acting out in the therapeutic relationship and responding in counter-therapeutic ways. The purpose of this research was to explore the factors involved in the development of countertransference awareness in therapists and to construct a grounded theory of the process. Fifteen qualified therapists were recruited and interviewed, either face to face or via Skype, using a semi-structured interview schedule. The grounded theory constructed from the data suggests that during training partici- pants initially experienced countertransference as threatening and overwhelming. When this experience was contained in supervision and therapy, the organisa- tional context and by participants’ theoretical framework, they could reflect on their countertransferential responses and make sense of their experience, which then developed their self-awareness and other insights to the benefit of the therapeutic relationship. Conversely, a lack of containment in these domains resulted in participants acting out their countertransference and becoming either over or under available in the therapeutic relationship. The findings offer a useful process model on the role containing contexts play in the development of countertransference awareness for therapists in training.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)256-272
    Number of pages16
    JournalPsychodynamic Practice
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019
    EventBritish Psychological Society, Division of Counselling Psychology - Cardif , United Kingdom
    Duration: 28 Jun 201929 Jun 2019
    Conference number: 2019


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