Countertransference disclosure in trainee psychotherapists: implications for supervisory learning.

Berger, Karen Lee
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This study investigates a specific aspect of the supervisory alliance between trainee psychotherapists and their supervisors: the phenomenon of countertransference disclosure. The study explores the emotionally conflicting role in which supervisees are placed, as they are required to appear capable for their patients and for assessment purposes, whilst still admitting to professional ignorance to their supervisors for educational purposes. Supervisees are required to disclose their countertransference reactions to their patients in the presentation of case material, as well as their emotional reactions to their supervisors within the supervision context. A questionnaire developed by the researcher was answered by fifteen past university students who completed the Clinical Master’s psychology course provided by the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) between the years 2005-2007. Thematic content analysis was conducted in order to analyse the data. The results showed that supervisees chose to fully disclose, selectively disclose or completely withhold such information. All fifteen participants acknowledged that the strength of the supervisory alliance was the main contributing factor to disclosure or nondisclosure of information. The participants who experienced weak alliances with their supervisors felt that their psychotherapy training was compromised and their potential as training psychotherapists was not fulfilled. It is important that supervisors are cognisant of the fact that supervisees are less likely to disclose information if they do not feel secure in their alliance, which, from the supervisees’ perspectives will negatively impact upon their training.