Does Racial Colour Difference Between Therapist and Client Affect the Transference? If It does, How Does it Emerge, And How Do Therapists Engage With It To Establish a Therapeutic Relationship: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
Date: 20 July 2020
University of Exeter
Doctorate in Clinical Practice
Abstract The relationship between psychoanalysis and race, which includes the external feature of skin colour, has been contradictory due to psychoanalytic principles privileging the internal world. This has the effect of marginalising race, and other socio-cultural contexts such as gender, sex, culture, ethnicity, and class, which are ...
Abstract The relationship between psychoanalysis and race, which includes the external feature of skin colour, has been contradictory due to psychoanalytic principles privileging the internal world. This has the effect of marginalising race, and other socio-cultural contexts such as gender, sex, culture, ethnicity, and class, which are fundamental elements of one’s subjectivity, sense of self, and how we relate to others. Psychoanalysis is now practised in a highly diverse and pluralistic society, but there remains very little understanding of how the external world, in the form of racial difference, affects the internal dynamics, in the psychoanalytic encounter. Considering these pertinent issues, this study investigated whether race, which includes the colour difference (external feature) between the client and therapist affect the transference (internal response), and the relationship that subsequently develops. The study gathered views from 14 psychodynamic and psychoanalytic psychotherapists (6 White, 4 Black, 2 Asian, and 2 Mixed Asian and White) generating in depth, nuanced understanding of how issues of racial difference emerge and how therapists engage with them in the consulting room. Through engaging therapist from diverse racial backgrounds, the study was innovative and derived rich, varied perspectives, giving it both depth and breadth. The study utilised Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) as a qualitative research data analysis methodology (Smith, Larkin and Flowers, 2009). While being mindful of the philosophical tensions between phenomenology and psychoanalysis, a psychoanalytic lens was integrated in the analysis process to fully capture the participants’ experiences in the psychoanalytic encounter. From the data analysis, all 14 candidates strongly considered race to be an integral element of their work, and highly relevant to the relationship. They also considered race as a vehicle and an entry point to transference manifestations, bridging the gap between the external world and the internal world.
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