Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This exploratory study was undertaken to explore psychotherapists who possess a variety of psychiatric diagnoses found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). This study was also to explore how psychotherapists experience transference to clients who possess similar diagnoses or symptomatology, as well as to explore what connection, if any exists, between the psychotherapist's support system and their professional identity development. This research was also envisioned as a way to develop a voice for professionals who may not speak out about their personal experience within the mental health system due to fear of stigmatization and discrimination. The sample size consisted of thirteen psychotherapists (N=13), including ten Master's level social workers, two Doctoral level social workers, and one doctor in psychiatry. All participants were actively practicing psychotherapy and each had a history of participating in psychotherapy as consumers with various diagnoses. All participants reported a variety of years as consumers, a variety of years of practice, and diverse theoretical orientations. The findings of this research revealed different levels of empathic attunement ranging from identifying with clients and their pain to overidentifying with clients. Participants were identified as having either high or low levels of clinical insight as measurement to their professional development. Participants revealed various levels of disclosure of the personal experience as consumers, ranging from minimal or indiscriminate levels, limited levels, or maximum levels of disclosure based on how much the participants disclosed to friends, family, personal therapists, and colleagues/supervisors. Participants also identified various ways mental health professionals could help fight the stigmatization of the mental health field. Three major themes revealed systemic approaches, political approaches, and personal approaches. Each participant outlined various responsibilities that current and future psychotherapists participant in to fight stigma.


iii, 94 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2007. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 73-80).