Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Ed Hanna

Advisor Role

Thesis Co-Supervisor


The purpose of this study is to increase knowledge about therapeutic practices on the part of practitioners; specifically, the study asked social workers and other types of therapists who see couples about their awareness of, acknowledgment of, attitude toward, understanding of, and use of the psychoanalytic model and of the concepts of transference and countertransference, and to demonstrate to what extent they accurately comprehend the meaning and potential use of these concepts in their clinical practice. A survey/questionnaire was mailed to a large sample of social workers and other therapists in Ontario, and provided 941 responses. An included vignette gave respondents the opportunity to put their theoretical knowledge into clinical application. Responses were assessed through scoring on key indices of awareness of, acknowledgment of, understanding of, attitude toward, and use of transference and countertransference. This study provided evidence of a deficiency in these indices and in the use of the psychoanalytic model on the part of practitioners who treat couples. Only 6.1% of these respondents selected the psychoanalytic paradigm as their first choice in treating couples. Few couples counsellors considered transference and/or countertransference as key issues in assessment. (Of these practitioners, only 7.5% gave at least one accurate example). Results from this study revealed a significant disparity between practitioners' theoretical knowledge and their practical application. A linear model was employed to identify predictors of application/use of transference and countertransference. The most important predictor was respondents' perception of the psychoanalytic model in terms of its usefulness in treating the couple presented in the vignette. The object relations model was used to help explicate the findings of this study. Implications of this study included the need for further training of practitioners in order to increase their theoretical knowledge and clinical skills concerning use of the psychoanalytic paradigm and of the concepts of transference and countertransference.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons