Female therapists’ experiences of working with male clients who are sexually attracted to them

An exploratory study using a free association narrative interview method, published in Counselling Psychology Quarterly

Jasenka Lukac‐Greenwood, Biljana van Rijn First published: 12 February 2021 https://doi.org/10.1002/capr.12392


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.

Link to article: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/capr.12392
To cite this article:

Lukac-Greenwood,J, van Rijn,B.( 2021) Female therapists’ experience of working with male clients who are sexually attracted to them – an exploratory study using a Free Association Narrative Interview Method. Couns.Psychother Res.2021;00:1-13. https://doi.org/10.1002/capr.12392

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