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Counseling Psychology and Psychotherapy

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

ISSN (printed version): 2075-3470

ISSN (online): 2311-9446


License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Published since 1992

Published quarterly

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Open Access Journal


Psychotherapist’s Own Traumatic Experience in the Field of His/Her Professional Empathy: The Phenomenon of Empathic Involvement 720


Belyaeva V.N.
MA in Psychology, graduate of the Master’s degree program “Counseling psychology” of the Faculty of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia

Karyagina T.D.
PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Chair of Individual and Group Psychotherapy, Faculty of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia

The present study is devoted to the significance of personal experience for the psychotherapist’s empathy in the context of her/his professional activity. As a result of processing interviews (N=14) using the grounded theory methodology, we reveal and describe the phenomenon of the empathic involvement of the therapist that occurs in the intersection of his/her own traumatic experience and the client’s experience. The structure of the phenomenon, contextual conditions and causal reasons for its occurrence, the psychotherapist’s action/interaction strategies with the phenomenon of empathic involvement and the consequences of these strategies are analyzed. Various forms of empathic involvement are identified: when the client’s experience is similar to the experience of the therapist’s trauma and when the client provokes a response as, rather, the source of the trauma. The analysis of the interviews shows that empathic involvement places the therapist not only in a situation of sympathetic understanding of the client but also in the area of his/her own traumarelated experiences, including the process of giving the meaning and significance to the professional activity.

Keywords: empathy, professional empathy, psychotherapy, trauma, experience, experiencing trauma, grounded theory

Column: Workshop and Methods


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