The impact of gender on the therapeutic relationship

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Collins, Frances
Issue Date
BA Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Many aspects of the therapeutic alliance have been examined in previous research but few studies have focussed on the gender dynamic. The purpose of this study is to inquire into the experience of gender between therapist and client and the impact, if any, that gender has on the therapeutic relationship. The participants in the study were all person-centred or psychodynamic therapists selected at random from available web-sites. To achieve balance three male and three female therapists were invited to participate. Unstructured interviews were conducted in which themes from previous research were suggested as headings for discussion. Suggested themes included stereotypes, attachment, power, disclosure and transference. Results indicate that gender is a critical factor in therapy. Gender stereotyping with regard to expression of emotionality in clients was seen to be a factor with male therapists. Attachment patterns were shown to be unrelated to the gender of either therapist or client. Power was shown to be an issue with clients of both genders but presented in different ways. Disclosure varied depending on the gender of the therapist. Experience of erotic transference was reported only by male therapists. Mixed gender group work was shown to be highly therapeutic for female clients. In conclusion gender was shown to be a critical issue in the therapeutic alliance for both therapist and client. Therapists who fail to pay attention to the gender dynamic with their clients may not be getting the full story.