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Sexual attraction in psychotherapy: A qualitative study of interns' experiences and decision-making processes

25 July 2003


The purpose of this study is to explore trainees' experiences of a specific psychotherapeutic boundary issue, sexual attraction, in order to understand their decision-making process regarding supervision or consultation for this experience and their perceptions of the outcome for themselves in their professional development, the supervisory relationship, and the client. This qualitative study is the first step toward reaching a better understanding of these phenomena from actual experiences of psychologists in training. The increase in understanding may then inform curriculum and supervision decisions in graduate clinical psychology programs regarding effective management of sexual attraction within the therapeutic relationship. More broadly, this understanding may inform the training psychologists receive in the application of ethics to clinical practice. Seven psychology interns were recruited utilizing the criterion sampling method. The primary researcher scheduled 1-2 hour interviews with each participant. The transcripts of the interviews were analyzed phenomenologically to construct narratives of the participants' experiences of and decision-making processes regarding sexual attraction in psychotherapy. The findings are discussed with recommendations for training programs and supervisors.


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