Family Enrichment Center of Seattle

Countertransference, Creativity, Play, and Renewal

Full Program Title:

Countertransference, Creativity, Play, and Renewal: An Experiential Supervision Clinic for Clinicians

Led By: David L. Calof

Location: Seattle


Working with trauma and abuse victims can evoke powerful countertransference, counterresistance, and parallel process in clinicians. At times, these unconscious reactions can signal the clinician’s own unresolved woundedness or trauma. At other times they are a “normal” occupational hazard. Left unchecked and unexamined, though, either type can scuttle therapy and endanger both client and clinician.  Clinicians caught in the grips of unexamined countertransference, secondary traumatization, or burnout may retaliate, become disabled, or collude with the client to extrude valuable expressions from the therapeutic crucible, thus potentiating client acting-in or -out.

Beyond the intensity and demands of trauma therapy itself, clinicians today must operate in an increasingly turbulent climate of practice. Contradictory pressures buffet them from all sides (e.g., the strictures of managed care and the death knell for long term, depth psychotherapy; the blurring of traditional distinctions between forensic and psychotherapeutic domains; the adversarial climate surrounding the trauma recovery field, coupled with claims that assertions of widespread traumatic abuse in the culture evince a new type of “witch hunt” of innocents by abuse and trauma professionals; the degradation of the therapist-client confidentiality privilege; major reductions in social and health services; the movement against entitlements; and so on). Clinicians may find it increasingly difficult to protect the boundaries of the therapy frame from forceful incursions of the system.

Caught in this matrix of demands, clinicians are at greater risk than ever for issues of the self. Yet, rarely can therapists escape the maelstrom to come together safely to honestly assess their current countertransference and counterresistances as well as other issues of the self of the therapist in a non-adversarial, supportive, confidential and well-boundaried, psychoeducational community.

In this experiential supervision clinic, participants first will create a well-boundaried psychoeducational learning community.  In the second session, participants will engage in large and small group exercises that emphasize the qualities of spontaneity, play, reflection, experimentation, choice, and esprit de corps.  In the second session, participants will use these heightened sensibilities and skills to examine current countertransferences and counterresistances, in light of personal woundedness, trauma, and childhood internalizations.

The leader will endeavor to create an enjoyable, playful climate of mutual respect, trust, confidentiality and containment throughout the clinic, with a strong emphasis on the voluntary nature of all activities during the clinic.

Learning Objectives:

1. Participants will engage in supervised group and individual exercises to identify injunctions and internalizations from childhood that inhibit personal reflection and self-examination, hinder authenticity and stifle creative experimentation.

2. Participants will engage in supervised group and individual psychodramatic, processes designed to: a) identify their current countertransference and counterresistance issues and themes, and, b) to provide heuristic tools for self-analysis of ongoing issues of the self of the therapist (countertransference, counterresistance, secondary [vicarious] traumatization, burnout, and so on).

3. Participants will engage in supervised exercises and discussion to clarify their experience of traumatic rage, exploring idiosyncratic reactions and identifying potential countertransference vulnerabilities in their current practice with trauma and abuse survivors.


“The small group role playing was very powerful, revealing and bond building.”—Washington, D.C.

“This was great. It has a lot to offer the therapist in life and work. Gave us techniques through the experiencing rather than telling.”—Washington, D.C.

“I liked everything! The presenter’s manner, the playing, the exercises and the insights they enabled.”—Washington, D.C.

“Left feeling energized, rather than tired….terrific ability to make large group want to communicate.” —Winston-Salem, N.C.

“I liked the experiential work….lends for getting more out of a workshop and promotes self awareness and fosters learning which we can utilize with clients.”
Winston-Salem, N.C.

“[What I liked best was] it was fun—I loved, played and appreciated myself in that context!”
Seattle, WA

“It was fun, innovative, energizing, healing.”
Eugene, OR

“Tremendous. Richly rewarding experience. Supervision exercise very valuable. My small group seemed to get to the heart of the matter quickly in each case.”
London, England