Morgan Pell, Psy.D., is a 2022 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England
- Theodore Ellenhorn, PhD, ABPP, Committee Chair
- Gina Pasquale, PsyD, Committee Member
- Rosalyn DeVincentis, PsyD, Committee Member
countertransference, attachment, psychotherapy, psychologists, psychologists-in-training, adult attachment, attachment-related anxiety, attachment-related avoidance, attachment security
Therapists experience thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in response to their clients, which are sometimes referred to as countertransference. Such responses may be influenced by the therapist’s personal history, including the quality of their attachment experiences. Research has demonstrated that adult attachment organizations influence a person’s cognitive, behavioral, and affective responses toward close others, thus providing a useful framework for understanding some countertransference experiences of therapists. This quantitative study sought to add to the existing literature by examining the relationship between therapist self-reported attachment organization and countertransference responses to clients. Seventy-three therapists participated in this study, including licensed psychologists, doctorate-level psychologists, and psychologists-in-training. Results of this study found that therapist self-reported attachment anxiety and avoidance are associated with a range of countertransference responses to clients. Specifically, attachment-related anxiety was positively correlated with overwhelmed/disorganized countertransference and was a significant predictor of helpless/inadequate, disengaged, and criticized/mistreated countertransference responses. Attachment-related avoidance was positively correlated with overwhelmed/disorganized and disengaged countertransference responses, but was not a significant predictor of any countertransference response types. Additionally, attachment-related security was not associated with any countertransference response types. This study expands existing literature for understanding the relationship between therapist attachment and countertransference, and provides a novel use for the Therapist Response Questionnaire, as this measure has not yet been utilized when examining therapist attachment and countertransference. The general direction of the findings have clinical implications for psychotherapy practitioners, suggesting that therapists may benefit from developing and maintaining an awareness of the potential influence of their attachment history.
Pell, M. J. (2022). Therapist Self-Reported Attachment Organization and Countertransference Responses to Psychotherapy Clients. https://aura.antioch.edu/etds/776