An exploration of erotic transference in the therapeutic encounter

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Barnewell, Yvonne
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Erotic transference occurs frequently in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis yet very little has been published on the topic to date. This research study seeks to explore the phenomenon of erotic transference and erotised transference as it emerges in the therapeutic encounter, the therapist’s countertransference and the importance of the therapeutic relationship in managing outcomes. This paper also seeks to explore the significance of gender differences on the transference process with particular emphasis on the female therapist- male client dyad and the female therapist-female therapist dyad. The methodology used was semistructured face to face interviews with a small select group of participants and subject responses to a detailed qualitative analysis; Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The sample for the research study included three experienced female, humanistic and integrative Irish psychotherapists. The purpose of this criterion was to facilitate the researcher in collecting data from more experienced psychotherapists and also with the intention of collecting research data from a humanistic and integrative perspective. Three themes emerged from the interviews: the role of the therapist in the emergence of the erotic transference, resistances to the erotic transferences and the issue of boundaries in the erotic transference. The research would suggest that erotic transference is the most challenging phenomenon in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis and the therapist may possibly be the most important influence in the transference as it emerges in the here and now. Author keywords: Erotic transference, transference love