School for Social Work
Pregnancy-Psychological aspects, Women psychotherapists-Psychology, Psychotherapist and patient, Life change events-Psychological aspects, Therapist's pregnancy, Major events in therapist's life, Therapeutic relationship
This empirical research study explored the impact of the therapist's pregnancy on the therapist-client relationship. Specifically, this study asked whether therapists and clients interact in less professional, more personal ways during the therapist's pregnancy, and how this is perceived by therapists to impact treatment. Relational psychodynamic theory was the theoretical underpinning of this study. Thirteen psychotherapists were interviewed about their experiences of practicing therapy while pregnant. All participants were either currently or recently pregnant. Interview questions were developed by this researcher to elicit therapist experiences with clients who asked personal questions or offered baby gifts to the therapist, and how therapists felt about and responded to these behaviors. Interview questions also focused on how therapists perceived their pregnancy to impact the ways they conduct and understand therapy. Findings were that most therapists had some clients offer gifts and ask personal questions during and following their pregnancy, along with a range of other boundary-crossing behaviors. Therapists responded to these behaviors along a continuum, depending on the degree to which they felt comfortable and whether they experienced client behaviors as appropriate, intrusive, or threatening. In some cases, therapists felt the need to reaffirm professional boundaries, while in other cases, therapists felt the pregnancy offered an opportunity to interact with clients in a more personal, less professional manner, which was perceived by some to positively impact treatment.
Wolfe, Elizabeth H., "The therapist's pregnancy and the client-therapist relationship : an exploratory study" (2013). Masters Thesis, Smith College, Northampton, MA.