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Sexual Attraction in Therapy: Clinical Perspectives on Moving Beyond the Taboo - A Guide for Training and Practice

Sexual Attraction in Therapy: Clinical Perspectives on Moving Beyond the Taboo - A Guide for Training and Practice

Maria Luca (Editor)

ISBN: 978-1-118-67423-9

Jan 2014, Wiley-Blackwell

288 pages


Sexual Attraction in Therapy presents new findings from multiple perspectives into the complex phenomenon of sexual attraction in therapy. Detailed clinical examples and strategies from expert contributors demonstrate how therapists can engage with sexual attraction, when it arises, in positive ways that facilitate client progress and ensure appropriate professional conduct. 

  • Challenges practitioners to think about sexual attraction as a normal dynamic developing through the unique intimacy of the therapy encounter
  • Presents new findings from research to enrich understanding of the lived experience of therapists and how they confront, avoid, make use of the process of sexual attraction
  • Provides clinical examples to highlight common challenges faced by practitioners, the strategies they use to overcome them and how they normalize the ‘taboo’ of sexual attraction to make positive use of it in therapy
  • Makes an important contribution to current literature on professional practice, an area of increasing importance as more emphasis is placed on issues of ethics, ongoing supervision and appropriate professional conduct
  • Expert contributors include Doris McIlwain, Michael Worrell, John Sommers-Flanagan and Martin Milton



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Notes on Contributors xi

Acknowledgements xvi

Editorial Introduction: An Encounter with Erotic Desire in Therapy xvii
Maria Luca

Part I Relational Perspectives on Sexual Attraction in Therapy 1

1 ‘Hot Cognition in Sexual Attraction’: Clarifying, Using and Defusing the Dionysian in Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapies 3
Michael Worrell

2 Sexual Attraction in the Therapeutic Relationship: An Integrative Perspective 22
John Nuttall

3 Existential Psychotherapy and Sexual Attraction: Meaning and Authenticity in the Therapeutic Encounter 38
Michael D. Berry

4 Knowing but Not Showing: Achieving Reflective Encounter with Desire – A Relational Psychoanalytic Perspective 53
Doris McIlwain

5 The Role of Psychological Proximity and Sexual Feelings in Negotiating Relatedness in the Consulting Room: A Phenomenological Perspective 67
Paul Smith-Pickard

6 An Acceptance Commitment Therapy Approach to Sexual Attraction 80
Richard Blonna

7 Addressing Sexual Attraction in Supervision 97
Kirsten W. Murray and John Sommers-Flanagan

8 Sexual Attraction in Conjoint Couple Therapy 115
Steven M. Harris and Tina M. Timm

9 Bound to the Mast: Reflections on Analytic Abstinence 131
Andrea Sabbadini

10 Why Can’t We Be Lovers? The Love-Obsessed Clients Who Stalk Their Therapist 137
Maria Luca and Juliet Soskice

Part II Research-Informed Theoretical and Clinical Perspectives on Sexual Attraction in Therapy 151

11 Skilled Handling of Sexual Attraction in Therapy: A Grounded Theory of What Makes the Difference 153
Anthony Arcuri and Doris McIlwain

12 The Self-Preservation Society: A Discourse Analysis of Male Heterosexual Therapists and Discourses of Sexual Attraction 173
John Penny and Malcolm Cross

13 An Elephant in the Room: A Grounded Theory of Experienced Psychotherapists’ Reactions and Attitudes to Sexual Attraction 193
Maria Luca and Mark Boyden

14 Therapists’ Disclosures of Their Sexual Feelings to Their Clients: The Importance of Honesty – An Interpretative Phenomenological Approach 209
Anna Marshall and Martin Milton

15 Systemic Family Therapists’ Narratives on Sexual Attraction in Their Clinical Practice: A Narrative Analysis 226
Desa Markovic

Epilogue 242

Index 249

B = Standard Review List

1. American Journal of Psychiatry
2. American Psychologist
3. North American Journal of Psychology.
4. J. Amer. Psychoana. Assn.
5. Contemporary Psychoanalysis.
6. Journal of Anal. Psychol.
7. Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis. (USA). [author has been published in this journal]
8. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI) and (APA)
9. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology (Brill)
10. Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Also: PsyCritiques (3 copies)

I published two research articles in the Counselling & Psychotherapy Research Journal (BACP). The Journal of The Society for Existential Analysis is sponsored by Regent’s University and read by many of our students/trainees. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice by the British Psychological Society is recommended to all our students and is widely read. The other journals cover a range of training institutions and modalities, which captures the essence of the book.

1. Annual Review of Psychology.
2. British Journal of Psychiatry.
3. Journal of Counselling Psychology (APA).
4. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice (BPS).
5. Counselling & Psychotherapy Research (The BACP research journal published by Taylor & Francis).
6. Journal of The Society for Existential Analysis
7. The Psychotherapist. UKCP.
8. International Journal of Psychotherapy, European Association of Psychotherapy: EAP.
9. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. (BABCP) Cambridge.
10. Psychotherapy Research. Society for Psychotherapy Research (pub. Taylor & Francis).
11. British Journal of Psychotherapy. British Association of Psychotherapists:
12. Contemporary Psychotherapy. Minster Centre, London, UK (e-journal)
13. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. British Psychological Society.
14. The Cognitive Behaviour Therapist (BABCP).
15. Psicoterapia e Scienze Umane. (independent journal)

"The book enables the reader to engage in discourse regarding sexuality by asking the reader to go beyond the therapeutic room and look at their own perceptions of sexuality." (Existential Analysis, 2015)