Exploring the Phenomenon of #Transference & #CounterTransference, and #ParallelProcess in #ExecutiveCoaching #ConsultingPsychology.
What past experiences are your clients projecting onto present situations? Exploring transference and counter-transference in the context of consulting can add value to the client. Working through (unconscious) past experiences could enhance individual success and creativity.
Working as an executive coach and psychological consultant requires an understanding and awareness of the discovery process in working with a client, particularly unconscious aspects of a client. This includes understanding the client’s defenses as they arise, resistance to the work, transference that is projected onto you, and counter-transference, all within the context of coaching or consulting.
Equally important is establishing a working-alliance and understanding that a parallel process will ensue. As a coach and consultant, it is our work to examine and understand the unconscious layers of this process, to identify and discuss the experiences as they present themselves and to provide an interpretation that can be shared in a collaborative way with the client.
Going through this process with awareness allows effective interventions to be implemented. Working with a relational approach, intersubjectively, creates a collaborative atmosphere. In this context it’s relevant and important for the coach and client to reach attunement and to discuss both interpretations and interventions. A strong working alliance will allow this to happen.
In his research article Hann (2011) cites Freud’s (1912, 1913, & 1917) work on the subject of transference, “In it he defines transference as that part or those parts of the person’s highly individual, highly personal and largely unconscious loving impulses which is not being satisfied in her relationships”. He’s referring the unconscious process that each individual projects onto a situation in some way. The coach must pay attention to the unconscious process in the session and illuminate and bring into awareness what dynamic is happening. In an ideal situation, this collaborative effort will facilitate greater self-awareness and self-discovery for the client. In situations where the resistance is strong and defenses are held, it will require time and understanding.
Hann (2011) discusses in great detail Freud’s (1912, 1913, & 1917) work on transference and counter-transference. The enlightening aspect of this research is that Hann (2011) brings to light an important psychodynamic aspect of executive coaching and consulting, and states that adherence to this process affects the outcome efficacy.
Hann, E. (2011). Back to basics: How the discovery of transference is relevant for coaches and consultants today. International Coaching Psychology Review.Volume 6(2). The British Psychological Society – ISSN: 1750-2764
Haan, E. & Sills, C. (2010). The relational turn in executive coaching. Journal of Management Development. Volume 29(1). Retrieved online October 20, 2013: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1891119&show=abstract
What attachment styles are present in your clients and how do you work with it? Unconscious attachment styles and patterns of behavior can sabotage success. Attachment styles are exacerbated under stressful events. Help clients develop self-awareness and the skills to create a more cohesive sense of themselves, a more authentic self.
A psychodynamic approach in executive coaching is beneficial when patterns of dysfunctional behaviors present within the client. This might be evident when a client is experiencing emotional dysregulation or difficulty maintaining a stasis of emotional equilibrium and close relationships.
Possible triggers include changes in their personal or professional lives, e.g.: relationship challenges, job transitions, impending loss, healthcare issues or illness. The outcome might be evident by professional performance issues and conflictual encounters. Depending upon their attachment style, they will react accordingly (see attachment style descriptions below).
It takes extreme situations for a person to become open to examining sources of tension and to seek consultation. By participating in ongoing (psychoanalytic) coaching, an individual can improve their personal and professional effectiveness by understanding the thoughts and feelings underlying areas of tension. This involves a psychodynamic approach on the part of the executive coach or consultant and an understanding and examination of the unconscious behavioral patterns of the client. A client may be reacting to uncomfortable feelings, emotions and situations by externalizing conflicts instead of dealing with the discomfort. This suggests that the attachment style of the client is presenting difficulties.
The following descriptions summarize psychodynamic attachment styles that can be a source of disruption and tension. All of these styles represent a continuum of behavioral patterns that can be exacerbated when stressors present.
1. Secure attachment is approachable and supportive; this person actively seeks contact or closeness with significant others and uses either a family member, superior, or peer as a secure base from which to explore the world, ideas, emotions, or manage stress or trauma.
2. Insecure or tenuous attachment is a person who appears disorganized and uncomfortable when approaching others for support or help. Often they’ll display outward signs of distress and longing for contact yet seem oblivious to those that could provide this closeness and therefore don’t reach out.
3. Insecure or avoidant attachment is a person who typically avoids closeness with family members, friends, superiors, and peers. Generally they do not actively seek support or comfort from others. These individual tends to be more isolated and a loner. They generally do no offer support to others, a lack of empathy.
4. Insecure ambivalent attachment is a person who forms attachments but has difficulty maintaining any consistency with how closely they remain to others. They will experience difficulties with this closeness and feel that it’s stressful to managing.
5. Insecure disorganized attachment style is a person who appears to have no close relationships with other people. They will often experience distress being close to others, and feel invaded upon, hostile and controlling.
A psychodynamically trained psychological consultant working as an executive coach to examine the interpersonal aspects of a client with an understanding of the core personality developmental conflicts. Developing this diagnostic framework will help the client to understand how their personal attachment styles formed and how they can best manage the characteristics of these styles as they experience stressors.
Kilburg, Richard R. (2004). When Shadows Fall: Using Psychodynamic Approaches in Executive Coaching. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. Vol. 56, No. 4, pp. 246-268. DOI: 10.1037/1065-92184.108.40.206.
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