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Responses by vocational guidance psychologists to unconscious expectations

| Text: Raimo Lahti

It is easy to believe that counselling and guidance are rational, cognitive and conscious activities and forget the unconscious aspects of these tasks. This research, however, proved that the transferences of the clients and, perhaps especially the countertransferences of the psychologists, should be taken into consideration, if our aim is to improve the quality and the results in these fields.

In our previous study, we noted that the clients placed unconscious expectations on guiding psychologists so that these would behave as authorities and experts known to them from their former life, or that they would, through interaction, perform a duty significant to the clients.

We defined the expectations as transferences, because they resembled corresponding phenomena met in connection with psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. As we watched videotapes made of the guidance sessions, we noticed that the vocational guidance psychologists often responded to the clients’ expectations by their own unconscious countertransferences.

The aim of the study was to find out what the typical transference expectations for the clients of vocational guidance were like, how the vocational guidance psychologists respond to them and how the transference phenomena affect the interaction and results of the guidance.

In the interaction of the guidance, the mutual variation and relation of three components – transference, countertransference and rational cooperation relationship – have been studied. As separate questions, an analysis was made of the relation of psychological tests generally used in vocational guidance and of information important in the guidance processes (i.a. educational and working life data) to transference phenomena.

The material consisted of thirty videotaped guidance processes, where the guidance of two clients in an easier mental and vocational guidance situation and the guidance of two clients in a more difficult situation were selected for more accurate examination.

The former focused individual transference expectations on the vocational guidance psychologist. According to a hermeneutic interpretation, these expectations appeared in recurrent dummy accounts, authority and idealization accounts.

The functional transference of the latter appeared in their nihilism and depression accounts. The psychologist began right from the beginning to apply withdrawal interventions in order to withdraw from the clients’ individual transference investments. This approach was generally called vocational guidance transference model I.

The psychologists guiding according to vocational guidance transference model II did not take account of the functional transferences of their clients, but responded repeatedly to them by adjustment and guardianship accounts tinged with their countertransferences. They did not try to withdraw from their transference investments, and this resulted in a transference circle simultaneously governed by the transference of the client and the countertransference of the psychologist.

The proportion of rational cooperation was insignificant and the results of the guidance were unsatisfactory. In the whole analysis of the videotape material, it was stated that the transference models found are realized in a great part (21 / 30) of the material.

Additionally, it was found that transference model I also can be realized when the client’s transference is functional, and transference model II realized when the client’s transference is individual.

The attitudes of the clients and the vocational guidance psychologists to the psychological tests and information material were in line with the general dynamics of the interaction. In one of the processes, which complied with transference model II, the psychologist used psychological tests as a means (“transference object”) when denying his own resources and possibilities.

In the other process, the psychologist resorted to tests in his endeavours to be a guardian to his depressed client.

Thus, the information material in these guidances resulted in a position serving primarily the client’s transference expectations and the psychologist’s countertransference

Raimo Lahti

is a counselling psychologist in the Helsinki employment office. 

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