Mindfulness and countertransference management in therapist trainees

Kelly Marie Zanetich, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to investigate whether therapist trainee mindfulness during a therapy session was positively correlated with and predictive of factors important to management of countertransference (self-insight, anxiety management, and empathy) as rated by trainees’ supervisors. The sample consisted of 86 trainee-supervisor dyads (86 therapist trainees and 80 clinical supervisors). The informed consent process included having trainees give permission for their supervisors’ to be contacted so that their participation could also be requested. Trainees were asked to provide consent first to prevent them from feeling coerced into participation given the power differential in the supervisory relationship. All participants were given codes to identify themselves on the secured online survey so that trainee-supervisor dyad questionnaires could be linked for data analysis. The principle researcher and her dissertation committee had exclusive access to participant data. These measures were taken to protect confidentiality. Trainees completed an online survey after completing a psychotherapy session that included the Toronto Mindfulness Scale and a supplemental questionnaire. Supervisors completed a survey that included the Countertransference Factors Inventory and a supplemental questionnaire. Results indicated that self-reported state mindfulness was not significantly correlated with self-insight, anxiety management, or empathy. However, a history of mindfulness training was significantly positively correlated with and predictive of anxiety management but not self-insight or empathy. These findings suggest a relationship between mindfulness training and anxiety management and provide some support for utilizing mindfulness as a method for helping trainees manage anxiety. The inconsistency in self-reported mindfulness and a more objective measure of experience with mindfulness points to issues in the measurement of this construct. Results also indicated that trainee years of clinical training were significantly positively correlated with anxiety management but were unrelated to self-insight and empathy. These findings suggest that clinical training does not lead to the development of self-insight and empathy and that methods for building these trainee characteristics may be important. Buddhist meditative practices along with neurobiological findings are discussed. These practices are proposed as ways of cultivating self-insight and empathy in therapists. Finally, additional limitations and implications of this study’s results are discussed.

Subject Area

Counseling Psychology

Recommended Citation

Zanetich, Kelly Marie, "Mindfulness and countertransference management in therapist trainees" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3494726.