Thursday, October 1, 2015

Experiencing countertransference

Since we have several new art therapists, I wanted them to be more aware of transference and feelings of countertransference that they may experience with the sex offenders at the hospital. So, I asked the group to create an image about a time they felt countertransference with a patient. Countertransference implies there is transference by the patient, but we used a looser definition to encompass any strong reaction to a patient. Many therapists had patients who reminded them of someone they knew, so in those cases, it was important for the therapist to be aware of potential reactions, and to possibly address any personal issues through their own therapy and supervision. Some therapists felt that they were treated as a parental figure, and had to be careful of their care taking feelings. Other therapists felt that they were being flirted with, and had to think about their feelings in response to that. It is important to be aware of countertransference and other strong feelings we have about patients when working in forensics as the patients can be very charming and manipulative as well as angry or self-loathing. Not being mindful can lead to boundary violations and inappropriate or unprofessional behavior. Supervision provides an opportunity for discussion, more self-awareness, and support by peers.