Transference, the projection of a client’s past emotional experience onto their therapist (Callahan, Corey & Corey, 2003), takes training and experience to utilize as a therapeutic tool. Most pointedly a client’s transfer of racist hatred or aggression from a past experience would certainly be a difficult situation, especially if the counselor’s background were of a minority status. However, the door on this swings both ways, one is either dealing with the emotions from a victim of racism or of a perpetrator of the bias. Trying to get one’s client to see that the transfer of this emotion is something they need to talk through may be a most demanding endeavor.
Conversely, counter-transference, the conveyance of emotions or feelings from the therapist onto the client, may also be either destructive or constructive (Callahan, Corey & Corey, 2003). An example of a potentially destructive counter-transference trait in a therapist would be perfectionism. This quality, left unchecked, is certain to ruin any productive client-counselor relationship. By its very nature this trait’s existence leads to criticism and control. Both these values can certainly undermine a client’s self esteem at any sensitive juncture. Constructively, there may be subconscious responses resonating in the therapist that have been activated by some aspect of the client’s situation. Recognized, these reactions may lead the therapist to a deeper understanding of the client’s condition (Callahan, Corey & Corey, 2003).
Avoiding the imposition of judgments within the therapeutic environment is the main issue of counselor neutrality (Callahan, Corey & Corey, 2003). Certainly a most taxing therapeutic encounter would be a client whose sexually proclivity may border on the criminal, while not expressly being a crime. One would have to adequately train for an encounter of this nature and perhaps beg the counsel of a colleague during such an experience in order to maintain an unbiased approach.
In working with a client whose values significantly veer away from one’s own, the first consideration would be the option of complete neutrality and the aforementioned assistance of a colleague to cope with the issues of the practitioner. Eventually, one would have to begin to search for values in oneself that also may not be easily accepted by others, i.e., perfectionism and an attempt would be made to relate to the client through that personal window. As a last resort, if the conflict became too intense and was interfering with the patient’s therapy, then referral to a colleague would be the only option.
The three issues that would lead one into the above steps would be: Racism; an abusive husband or boyfriend that attempts to justify the abuse; someone experiencing battered woman’s syndrome that constantly returns to the abuser. These three can go beyond one’s realm of personal understanding. Nevertheless, personal awareness of this must reveal that a good deal of care and patience would have to be exercised in the treatment of those with these value sets. All of the above belief systems are resultant issues of self-esteem for the client and any negative counter-transference or lack of objectivity on the counselor’s part would always result in an impasse to treatment.
Corey, G., Corey, M. & Callahan, P. (2003). Issues & ethics in the healing professions. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.