Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Child psychotherapy, Transference (Psychology) in children, Psychotherapist and patient, Mixed methods research, Child's statement of love for therapist


This study explored the experiences of clinicians in responding to their child clients' statements of "I love you." It is clear that this experience is common amongst child therapists, but the literature on this topic is virtually non-existent. While the literature does touch on countertransference, therapy with children, and love in therapy, never has the literature touched on the space in which these three topics come together. In order to explore this void in the literature, this study was completed using a mixed-method, anonymous online survey. Thirty clinicians participated in this survey, which asked clinicians to reflect on the interaction in which their child client stated "I love you," By asking these questions, the study produced a collection of data that will help future clinicians to consider the different ways clinicians respond to their clients' statement of "I love you," what factors motivate a clinician's response, and what effects these clinicians responses have on the child client, the therapy and the relationship. The findings of this chapter indicate that while clinicians respond to such a statement in a variety of ways, it is most common for clinicians to respond to their child client in a way that is largely dismissive or avoidant of the statement. It is also common for clinicians to deny that their chosen response has any effect on the therapy or the relationship. This thesis will provide an in-depth description of this finding, amongst others, along with a discussion about the findings and their possible motivating factors.




v, 91 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 79-80)