Beth Ketaineck, Psy.D., is a 2014 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • James Fauth, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Victor Pantesco, Ed.D., Committee Member
  • James Graves, Ph.D., Committee Member


incidental encounters, boundary crossings, boundary violations, dual relationships, ethics, therapists, psychotherapists, therapy, psychotherapy

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Incidental encounters with clients occur frequently and have been found to elicit feelings of surprise, uncertainty, and discomfort for the therapist (Sharkin & Birky, 1992). This qualitative study examined therapists' experiences of such incidental encounters to better understand factors that may contribute to those feelings. I conducted semi-structured interviews, in line with Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), with six licensed clinical psychologists who have experienced an incidental encounter within the last five years. Participants were asked to imagine the encounter, discuss factors that contributed to their feelings about the encounter (during and after), consider long-term consequences, and describe their level of preparedness for incidental encounters. Data analysis included sustained engagement with interview transcripts that resulted in the emergence of superordinate and emergent themes. Superordinate, or dominant, themes included therapist personal factors, client personal factors, client/therapist intersection, therapeutic consequences, ethical considerations, and training considerations. Specifically, results from this study revealed that some therapists' responses to incidental encounters were shaped by client characteristics, therapeutic context, and the extent to which the therapist had disclosed personal information prior to the encounter. Some therapists discussed increased trust and professional growth that occurred as a result of the incidental encounter, and all participants considered the ethical implications of engaging with their client during the incidental encounter. Considerations for future research include a quantitative, representative study to acquire more comprehensive and generalizable data, possibly including differences in therapists' experiences in urban versus rural areas, how training programs cover management of incidental encounters, possible impacts of therapists' interpretation of language from older ethics texts, and therapeutic outcomes of incidental encounters in the general population.


Beth Ketaineck