11 Pages

Containing and Using Powerful Therapist Reactions


Therapists are people. They have feelings and sometimes experience powerful emotional responses to their patients. Group therapy complicates the picture as therapists experience strong reactions toward a member, a subgroup, or a whole group. Although therapist reactions were once seen as experiences to analyze and get past, current psychodynamic thinking values the therapist’s reactions as a significant and instructive aspect of the therapeutic relationship. In fact, Leszcz (2008) states that it is impossible to avoid getting “hooked” by patients if the therapy is going well and the “hooking-unhooking process” is central to the work. This chapter will review the development of psychodynamic thinking about therapist reactions, examine the particular effect of group dynamics on them, describe some common therapist reactions in group therapy, and discuss effective containment and utilization.