The Impact of Extratherapeutic Encounters: Individual Reactions to Both Hypothetical and Actual Incidental Contact With the Therapist

Bryan N. Cochran, Angela J. Stewart, Abby M. Kiklevich, Annesa Flentje, Carol C. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Participants (N = 763) responded to a hypothetical scenario in which they imagined encountering their therapist outside of the therapy setting. The intimacy of the setting (i.e., anonymous vs. intimate encounter) and the perceived success of the therapy (i.e., helpful vs. unhelpful) were manipulated between subjects. Based on a principal components analysis of participant reactions to these hypothetical scenarios, 4 subscales were derived: "Acknowledgement," "Violation of Expectations," "Awkwardness and Discomfort," and "Professional Responsibility." Results indicate that reactions to the hypothetical encounter on these subscales were related to both the setting and the success of therapy. In general, participants indicated that they preferred acknowledgment from their therapists, especially in less intimate settings. However, Asian Americans, in contrast to European Americans, indicated less desire for acknowledgment and greater perceived expectation violations. Implications for psychotherapy process and training of clinicians are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510-517
Number of pages8
JournalProfessional Psychology: Research and Practice
Volume40
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2009

Keywords

  • Asian Americans
  • confidentiality
  • dual relationships
  • incidental encounter
  • psychotherapy

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