In Conversation with Claire Cartwright

In Conversation with Claire Cartwright

Welcome to another episode of our “In Conversation with Sage Authors” series!  This episode is an opportunity for us to hear from Dr. Claire Cartwright, author of “Introduction to Countertransference” on her journey toward writing this “gem of a book”.  Psychologists, psychotherapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals, who want to enhance their countertransference knowledge and practice, will find this book “fascinating”. 

Claire’s writing style is refreshingly clear and easy to comprehend, making the reader feel resourced and encouraged. Not only this but Claire takes a compassionate approach toward plight of the clients and their unconscious dynamics and toward the therapists who get caught up in them

Fiona Howard
Clinical Psychologist, Trainer & Fellow, New Zealand Psychological Society

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

I am a clinical psychologist and an Associate Professor of Psychology in the School of Psychology, University of Auckland. I did undergraduate psychology at the University of Queensland, postgraduate clinical psychology training, and a Ph.D. at the University of Auckland. My clinical psychology training introduced me mainly to cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy. Upon graduating, I studied psychodynamic therapies and became familiar with other therapeutic models.

When I took up the position of Psychology Clinic Director at the University of Auckland in 2003, I became interested in finding a way of communicating about countertransference with students who were training in a range of therapies but with an emphasis on cognitive and behavioral therapies. I observed students feeling uncomfortable talking about their reactions to clients and not having concepts to help them understand their responses. I began to teach countertransference concepts to trainees and therapists who did not have a background in psychodynamic therapies. This then led to developing my four-step approach to understanding and managing countertransference.

What inspired you to write “An Introduction to Countertransference”?

Countertransference impacts people working in the helping professions, and I wrote this textbook for those who work in the mental health field, such as psychologists, therapists, and counselors. Countertransference refers to the emotional reactions that therapists experience in their work with clients. A related term, transference, refers to clients’ emotional reactions to their therapists and therapy activities. Transference and countertransference can have adverse effects on therapy outcomes. Hence, It is essential that therapists working with clients understand the significance and meaning of these reactions and also understand where their clients are coming from.

Between 2008 and 2018, I conducted several studies to examine the types of countertransference reactions experienced by trainees and the effectiveness of my four-step teaching approach. These studies were carried out with colleagues at Universities in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States and published in Australian, New Zealand, and American journals. It then seemed like the next step was to put all that I had learnt into a textbook that would provide an overview of the theory and practice of understanding and managing countertransference. 

What sets this textbook apart from others in the same field?

This textbook captures the richness and complexity of theory, research, and practice regarding countertransference in a way accessible to a wide range of therapists and trainee therapists. It covers the four-step approach to understanding and managing countertransference. It also attends to other important topics, such as cultural countertransference and sexual countertransference. It provides ways of repairing disruptions to therapeutic relationships that result from countertransference behaviors. It gives many case examples, including conversations between therapists and clients, and uses diagrams to trace out transference and countertransference reactions. While it is influenced by psychodynamic theory, it is accessible to therapists from other therapeutic approaches. It also provides some examples of case studies from psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral perspectives.

Would you be able to share with us how this textbook can help a student on their Counselling/Psychotherapy/Psychology course?

Students often report that they wish they had more training in countertransference. This textbook gives a complete introduction to issues related to countertransference. It helps students recognize and understand their reactions and have ideas about what to do with them. This text will be invaluable for students and therapists with no psychodynamic training. It is also designed to assist lecturers, trainers, and supervisors who would like to provide guidance to students regarding their countertransference reactions.

Can you share any stories about how your book has made a positive impact on the readers, students, or instructors?

Students who participated in my research reported increased awareness and active monitoring of countertransference. The textbook helps students realize that their countertransference can be a valuable tool for understanding and working with clients and supports the development of positive therapeutic relationships. It is clearly written making complex ideas easy to understand. 

As one clinical psychologist who is a supervision trainer wrote:

Therapists with little background in psychodynamic approaches to therapy will find this a fantastic entry into an important aspect of clinical work. For those more seasoned it will offer perspectives and processes that will complement your work… 

Find out more about Claire’s Book

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