Viewing ambivalence from a sociological perspective: Implications for psychotherapists

Kenneth R. Weingardt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Ambivalence refers to the experience of simultaneous positive and negative affect toward the same person, object, or behavior that draws us in opposite directions and leads to some level of phenomenological discomfort. In psychology, ambivalence traditionally has been viewed as arising from intrapersonal conflict, that is conflict between dissonant cognitions or divided aspects of the self. Although reasonable, this explanation overlooks a larger factor. In sociology, ambivalence has been viewed as arising at the level of social structure when an individual in a particular social relation experiences contradictory demands or norms that cannot be simultaneously expressed in behavior. Sociologists have suggested that various structural attributes of the professional relationship itself can engender ambivalence on the part of clients. The present article reviews four of these structural attributes as they pertain to the client-therapist relationship and outlines a number of strategies that clinicians can employ to ameliorate the adverse effects of the sociological ambivalence that can result.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)298-306
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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