Kathryn Ann Paterson is a 2013 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology, Antioch University, New England


countertransference, social class, lower class, outreach therapy, social workers, psychologists, clinicians, poverty

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This dissertation examines how the class background of social workers and doctoral level psychologists influences negative countertransference towards working with the poor in an outreach setting. A literature review explores countertransference from a psychoanalytic stance and showcases the development of the two disciplines, psychology and social work, and how class has directly or implicitly been a factor. Finally, the review discusses outreach therapy, its advantages and limitations, and how doing this work can impact clinicians. Participants for the study were master's level clinicians, current and former predoctoral psychology interns, postdoctoral fellows, and other doctoral level clinicians who were currently or formerly practicing outreach therapy. Participants completed two measures that were developed by the principal investigator. The first measure asked participants to identify with one of four possible social class descriptions. The second measure was a series of 10 vignettes portraying potential countertransference scenarios. Participants were to select from three possible "emotional blends" of negative countertransference and then rank the intensity (1-5) of that particular emotional blend. The study had 27 participants varying in age, gender and ethnicity. Chi-square analyses between education level and social class, education level and countertransference, and social class and countertransference, all were not significant. Descriptive statistics outlined the frequencies of emotional blend responses for each vignette, as well as levels of intensity for each emotional blend and respective vignette. Means and standard deviations indicated differences between social classes and the average level of intensity that was experienced. T-tests indicated that there were significant differences between master's and doctoral level clinicians regarding emotional blends. The research implies that there are relationships between education level and social class and its influence on negative countertransference in outreach therapy. Possible explanations include that people from lower class backgrounds are better able to work with people from lower class backgrounds. Further, those who go into social work versus psychology are better able to work in an outreach setting as they receive focused training in working with an underprivileged population.