Female therapists’ experiences of working with male clients who are sexually attracted to them—An exploratory study using a free association narrative interview method

Lukac-Greenwood, Jasenka and van Rijn, Biljana (2021) Female therapists’ experiences of working with male clients who are sexually attracted to them—An exploratory study using a free association narrative interview method. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research. ISSN 14733145

Abstract

Sexual attraction between human beings is a pervasive phenomenon, impacting the process of psychotherapy, as well as other areas of social engagement. However,
within ethical psychotherapy practice the experience of attraction could not lead to enactment without ethical misconduct or premature therapeutic termination. This
qualitative study focused on female therapists' experiences of working with male clients who were sexually attracted to them. It employed Hollway and Jefferson's (2008) hybrid method ‘free association narrative interview’, which involved multiple
unstructured interviews with five female participants. The results of the study suggested that participants’ experience differed depending on whether they felt reciprocal sexual attraction. On occasions when therapists were not attracted towards their
clients, they struggled with unwanted sexual attraction because they feared having to reject their client and the retaliation this may entail. On such occasions, therapists expressed a sense of vulnerability, discomfort with power inequality and a sense of
being at fault. Conversely, when therapists felt sexually attracted to their clients,they managed the dynamic by framing it within a context of loving as opposed to purely erotic feelings. The study suggests that working directly with sexual feelings is
a challenge for female therapists, requiring personal development work, supervision and institutional support to address the complex interplay of individual, clinical and
societal issues, which appear to play a part in this difficulty.

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10.1002/capr.12392

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