A Thematic Analysis of the Counselling Psychologist's Experience of Therapeutic Ruptures

Munn, Jordan William James
Thorpe, Mark
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Bachelor of Health Science (Honours)
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Auckland University of Technology

This research explores the counselling psychologists lived experience of therapeutic ruptures with their clients. The relationship between therapist and client, referred to as the therapeutic relationship, represents connection, where participants work together collaboratively for the client's benefit. The therapeutic relationship is comprised of three interconnected components: the real relationship, the working alliance, and the transference/countertransference relationship. This research focuses on the working alliance between the therapist and client, an artifact which exists only when therapeutic work is being done. Therapeutic ruptures are breakdowns or tensions within the therapeutic relationship that result in disconnection and a loss of the collaborative nature of the relationship between therapist and client. While therapeutic ruptures are well documented, little is known about the counselling psychologists lived experience of therapeutic ruptures with their clients. To fill this gap in the literature, four registered counselling psychologists in Aotearoa, New Zealand, were interviewed and asked to describe their experience of a therapeutic rupture with one of their clients. Participants were asked to describe how they had identified the rupture, how it affected the therapeutic relationship, how they attempted to repair it, and if the rupture was resolved, how this occurred. Adopting an interpretive phenomenological approach, interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a reflexive thematic analysis. Four primary themes emerged, Therapists Clearly Identifying a Therapeutic Rupture, The Therapists Attempt at Repairing a Therapeutic Rupture, Resolving a Therapeutic Rupture and Understanding the Client. The identification of therapeutic ruptures is not as explicit at it initially appeared. During the reparation phase, the therapist restores a collaborative connection between the therapeutic participants, yet innumerable realities within practice hinder the therapist's ability to repair a rupture event effectively. Successfully resolved ruptures are described as beautiful moments, but unresolved, the rupture begins to weigh on the mind of the therapist. Despite the outcome of the therapeutic rupture, there is always something to take away from each and every experience. Finally, underlying the entire rupture-repair process is the therapist's ability to understand their client, influencing the outcome of rupture events. This research may assist practising counselling psychologists to further their understanding of therapeutic ruptures and reflect upon their own processes and how they deal with therapeutic ruptures in practice. This research intended to aid psychology students as a foundation of knowledge and an introduction to the many complexities counselling psychologists experience within the clinical setting.

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