Countertransference reactions to adolescents with eating disorders: Relationships to clinician and patient factors

Dana A. Satir, Heather Thompson-Brenner, Christina Lynn Boisseau, Michele A. Crisafulli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Objective: Clinical report suggests that therapists have strong and sometimes dif-ficult-to-manage reactions to patients with eating disorders (EDs); however, systematic research is largely absent. The purpose of this study was to explore the emotional responses, or countertransference (CT) reactions, clinicians experience when working with patients with EDs, and to identify clinician, patient, and therapy variables associated with these responses. Method: One hundred twenty clinicians reported on multiple variables related to an adolescent female patient they were treating for an ED. Results: Six patterns of reactions were identified: angry/frustrated, warm/competent, aggressive/sexual, failing/incompetent, bored/angry at parents and overinvested/ worried feelings. The factors showed meaningful relationships across clinician demographics, patient characteristics, and treatment techniques. Discussion: Overall, clinician's reactions were most frequently associated with the clinician's gender, patient's level of functioning and improvement during treatment, and patient personality style. These issues have important implications for treatment, training and supervision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-521
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Adolescent
  • Clinician attitudes
  • Countertransference
  • Eating disorders
  • Psychotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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