Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


The focus of this study is to examine therapists' subjective experience of erotic transference and determine what clinical skills and techniques are useful for managing such encounters. The purpose of the study is to answer the following questions using qualitative interviews: How do clinicians' reactions to erotic transference impact the therapeutic relationship? Also, how do clinicians formulate and symbolize aspects of the erotic transference? The participants were thirteen clinicians who practiced some form of therapy in the Bay Area of California. The sample included psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, PhD psychologists, and clinical social workers. Given this subject matter is still taboo for some clinicians, I interviewed therapists from mixed backgrounds and mixed theoretical orientations; thus my sample was diverse and includes different types of clinical dyads. The findings evoked different countertransference responses depending on the degree of intensity of the erotic transference. Additionally, the level of psychopathology corresponded to the intensity of the erotic transference. Most of the clinicians went to a supervisor or peer group to help manage erotic dynamics, as the majority did not receive any formal training around working with erotic dynamics; all reported the process of consultation was extremely helpful. Those clinicians who practiced therapy in managed care settings were constrained by working within a time-limited model that did not allow for exploration of the erotic transference. In cases where erotic feelings were reciprocal, clinicians were reluctant to seek consultation and experienced higher levels of anxiety and discomfort.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iii, 94 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 87-88)