20 Pages

Sexual Dynamics of the Client-Counselor Relationship

A subject that receives insufficient attention in training programs for alcoholism counselors, as in other human service professions (Edelwich & Brodsky, 1982), is the sexual dynamics that complicate the relationship between counselor and client. In psychoanalytic terms, sexual feelings that arise in the course of counseling can be seen as expressions of transference (whereby the client reacts to the counselor as a surrogate for "significant others" in the client's life) and countertransference (whereby the counselor reacts to the client on the basis of similar associations). Alternately, these feelings can be understood as manifestations of the sexual energy that can arise between any two people, here intensified by the intimacy of the therapeutic exchange and by the special \1ulnerability that exists for the client and sometimes for the counselor as well. Whatever their origins, these potentially disruptive emotional currents are ever present in the working life of an alcoholism counselor. If not dealt with appropriately, they can lead to less effective client care; breaches of ethics; and emotional, professional, andlor legal problems for the counselor, Yet most counselors learn to cope with these dynamics only through difficult on-the-job experience.