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Transference and Counter-Transference in Treating Incarcerated Sex Offenders

NCJ Number
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume: 23 Issue: 1/2 Dated: (1996) Pages: 99-109
B Allen; K E Brekke
Date Published
11 pages
This article provides an overview of the dynamics of transference and counter-transference in psychotherapy with incarcerated sex offenders, and suggestions for treatment are offered.
Therapists attempt to identify and encourage the offender to express his deviancy in order to treat it. In doing so, however, the therapist exposes himself/herself to the risk of being victimized by the offender during the processes of transference/counter-transference. Regarding counter-transference, the therapist may experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder and/or rape trauma syndrome by listening to repeated descriptions of the offender's assault and/or other deviances. In the process of transference, the offender may attempt to victimize the therapist by using the same behaviors that he used to control the victims of his sexual assault. As outlined by Roundy and Horton (1990), these behaviors may include seduction, imitation, intimidation, and invalidation. Such situations may not only render the therapist ineffective due to a loss of objectivity, they may also result in the therapist experiencing some significant negative effects in his/her personal life. Some recommendations for dealing with these issues include being aware of personal and professional biases and issues, striving to build and maintain competence, striving to anticipate and reduce burn out, establishing a means to obtain support from other professionals/clinicians, and measuring successes in smaller increments. 22 references