An exploration of the transferential issues that can arise in the work with traumatised refugees and asylum seekers

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Lennon, Elizabeth
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The strategic use of transference and countertransference are the cornerstones of psychotherapeutic work for exploring and understanding the symptomatology of the client. By its very nature and due to the intersubjectivity of the therapeutic encounter, these dynamics largely dictate the course of psychotherapy. The interactions of both psychotherapist and client are considered to be co-created meaning that each party is influenced by the other. Therefore, transferential interpretations are fundamental to psychotherapeutic work. Over the last two decades, Ireland has experienced a growing population of traumatised refugees and asylum seekers. These clients present with many difficulties which emerge in the therapeutic space which pose transferential issues for the psychotherapist. This qualitative study illustrates the problematic dynamics that can emerge via the transference and the psychotherapist’s countertransference. Six experienced psychotherapists participated in this research which highlighted the prevalence of transferential issues such as identification, maternal transference dynamics and the importance of the psychotherapist’s observing ego. This thesis aims to provide therapists who are working with traumatised refugees or asylum seekers with a deeper understanding of the transferential issues that can emerge in the work. This purpose of this study is to inform the contemporary psychotherapist of these challenges due to the lack of research on this topic from an Irish perspective. The author has included some recommendations for this form of psychotherapeutic work.