Relatedness and its place in therapy: Countertransference disclosure, intimacy, and gender

Donna H. DiCello (1996)

This study examined the relationships between attitudes towards countertransference and countertransference disclosure; the impact of these areas on a therapist's own treatment and her work as a clinician; conceptualizations of intimacy; and the benefits/risks of the female/female therapeutic dyad. The review of the literature related to these issues underscores them as underdeveloped areas of empirical research. The concept of intimacy has only recently filtered into the psychoanalytic literature, but it has not been empirically examined, nor have clinician conceptualizations been surveyed. In addition, the female/female therapeutic dyad has generally been viewed in the psychoanalytic literature as replete with difficulties; this study attempted to determine if this is so in actual clinical practice. Theoretical views and actual clinical practice of 60 female clinicians were assessed using the Attitudes-towards-Countertransference Questionnaire-Survey (Mendelsohn, Bucci, & Chouhy, 1992), and the Attitudes-towards-Countertransference Disclosure and Attitudes-towards-Intimacy Questionnaire-Surveys, both developed by this author for the purposes of this study. Ten of these subjects were also interviewed to obtain elaborative anecdotal data regarding the addressed issues. Results indicate that clinicians who view countertransference and countertransference disclosure as valuable to informing their clinical work also tend to consider intimacy as an important variable in their treatment relationships. Their own therapists' availability to do this as well tends to inform their work as clinicians. Results also indicate that these therapists report viewing countertransference disclosure as an equally effective tool with male and female patients, but interview results indicate that they report experiencing a greater sense of intimacy with their female patients.