Countertransference in Trauma Therapy

Participants indicated the exceptional use of defence mechanisms, such as minimisation of the clients’ traumatic stories and the presence of reactions such as: affective disconnection, absorption by the scene, use of metaphors, being invaded by the scene, identification with specific feelings, blank-out, confusion of feelings, dreaming and emergent scenario’s appearance. The findings indicated that therapists, who have experienced trauma in their life course and/or genealogy, showed stronger countertransference emotions and reactions. Therapists who did not experience trauma and who were still in the beginning of their career, showed relatively low emotional and physical countertransference responses. The therapists indicated the application of self-healing and other coping strategies to deal with the countertransference feelings and reactions.

Trauma Therapy
Trauma Therapy

The effects of psychotherapy focusing on the impact of the process on the client’s life have been researched since long but the influence of the therapeutic process on the therapist, that, specially in trauma therapy, is of great importance for the therapeutic relationship, has been less investigated. In essence, therapy implies a singular, close, and professional client/therapist relationship, which is based on the input and commitment of both parties. Goldsmith et al.indicated that the therapist’s “thorough understanding of trauma, its effects, and its potential to influence treatment dynamics is essential to the therapy of trauma victims” (p. 457). The therapeutic process also implies the therapist’s reflection of the client’s discourse in relation to its social and symbolic context. Through the therapeutic process the identity, values, concepts and belief systems of client and therapist, may therefore be challenged, affected and even altered.

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