The pregnant therapist : an exploration of countertransference issues and their impact on the therapeutic relationship

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Hacham-Lynch, Ranite
Issue Date
BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The therapist‟s pregnancy has the potential to disrupt or facilitate the therapeutic encounter and an awareness of this potential impact allied with a willingness to work with it can be invaluable for the growth of both client and therapist. Only a small amount of the literature in this area focusses on the therapist‟s perspective and so this research set out to explore the therapist‟s view of how pregnancy impacted on the therapist and the therapeutic relationship. Three therapists were interviewed, each discussing their experience of two pregnancies while working as psychotherapists. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse the rich data. Analysis of this data revealed three particularly interesting themes: (1) the therapist‟s discomfort with the exposure of her private life, (2) the therapist‟s struggle with the need to be „good enough‟ for her client and her „real child‟, (3) the therapist‟s awareness of her pregnancy as a catalyst for transference and countertransference reactions. The therapists reflected on issues such as self-disclosure, working around the forced break/ending, and their wish to protect their baby from clients‟ aggression. They found that willingness to work with the transference reactions evoked by their pregnancy accelerated the work with clients, generating new themes such as loss, loneliness, envy or abandonment from female clients and an increase in sexual material from male clients. The therapists experienced particular difficulties in working with negative transference and themes of loss; at times feeling guilty about their clients and at times anxious about the well-being of their baby, with these difficulties more prominent in their first pregnancy. The importance of good supervision and support was stressed by all therapists as a way of dealing with these difficulties and gaining awareness of what they felt. The findings of this research were, in the main, very much in line with the available literature. Author keywords: Pregnant, pregnancy, therapist, countertransference, impact on therapeutic relationship