04 May 2021

BY: Online Therapy

Attachment Therapy / Counselling / Online Counselling / Online Counsellor / Online therapist / Online Therapy

Comments: No Comments

Addressing Attachment Styles using Online Therapy

Article by Marvis Bih

Attachment styles and how it affects relationships

Have you ever wondered why you displayed the same characteristics in your relationships? We often believe that we fall for the same characteristics in potential partners and often do not understand why we react the way we do when things become a bit challenging. This is not unusual. We develop an attachment style during childhood that affects the way we respond and interact in adult relationships. This is generally referred to as attachment styles.

How did attachment styles become a theory?

The origin of attachment theory can be traced to the joint work of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth (Ainsworth & Bowlby 1991). This theory was first developed in the 1930s and 1940s with Bowlby being one of the clinicians who observed the effect of separation between parents and their infants. Forming of attachment relationships are undoubtedly presented as a biological tendency used to ensure survival (Scharfe, 2017). Attachment in adults can be viewed in two ways; adult attachment anxiety which is the excessive need for other’s approval, fear of rejection, negative view of self, and an over-reaction to negative feelings in an attempt to gain the support and sympathy of others. While adult attachment avoidance refers to the excessive need to rely on oneself, negative view of others, limited self-disclosure (Mikulincer, Shaver, & Pereg, 2003)

Attachment styles

There are generally three attachment styles namely; anxious, secure, and avoidant. These attachment styles have different effects on relationships. Secure attachment is experienced by people who had a healthy childhood and are good at handling intimate relationships, while people with avoidant and anxious attachment styles struggle to achieve intimacy (Dodgson 2018).
An online counsellor can help you with handling your attachment issues more or less the same way a therapist using the traditional face to face technique would do. It usually includes unpacking your childhood experiences, identifying patterns popping up in your relationships and help you develop new ways of relating with people and forming intimate relationships (Raypole 2019). In addition, Cognitive Behavioral therapy can also be used for the online treatment of attachment issues, mindfulness practice and many more.

Therapy for attachment styles

There are available online therapies for attachment issues. Most of these existing therapies make use of principles and methods that are in line with attachment theory such as exploring significant relationships in the past, exploration of healthy therapeutic relationships (Raypole 2019). Looking for an online therapist for attachment issues will depend on a number of individual factors such as your location, symptoms, finances and many more.

Want to get in touch with a counsellor?

Ainsworth, M. D. S., & Bowlby, J. (1991), An ethological approach to personality development. American Psychologist, 46, 331-341.

Dodgson, L. (2018). These are the 3 types of attachment styles — and how each affects your relationships. Insider.

Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P. R., & Pereg, D. (2003). Attachment theory and affect regulation: The dynamic development, and cognitive consequences of attachment-related strategies. Motivation and Emotion, 27, 77-102.

Raypole, C. (2019). How attachment issues impact your relationships. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/attachment-disorder-in-adults. Accessed on 02/09/2020.

Scharfe, E. (2017). Attachment Theory. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3823-1

17 Jul 2018

BY: Online Therapy

Anxiety / Assessment / Counselling / Depression / Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) / Screening Tool / Skype Counsellor / Stress

Comments: No Comments

Skype counsellor discussing Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS)

Article by Anna Keyter

Skype counsellor discussing Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS):

In this article, the Skype counsellor discussing Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) developed by Lovibond S.H. and Lovibond P.F.  The Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) was developed to report on negative emotional states employing a bipolar scaling measure (four-point rating scale, 0-3). Previously referred to as the Self-Analysis Questionnaire (SAQ), DASS has two additions, DASS-21 and DASS-42. The DASS-42 (42 items) is recommended for clinical use and the shortened version DASS-21 (21 items) for research.


The DASS is a screening tool, not meant for diagnosis of mental disorders. In this essay, the DASS-21 will be discussed in terms of how it relates to Depression, Anxiety and Acute Stress Disorder. DASS-21 will also be considered in terms of its relevance in the New Zealand context, psychometric properties, functions and limitations and ethical concerns.

DASS Development

Summarised from Lovibond & Lovibond, (1995a), DASS highlights three different negative states; the scales are not independent of the other. The authors used 30 samples that revealed three distinct scales which were labelled as Depression, Anxiety and Stress. They found that the internal consistency of the anxiety scale was consistently lower than stress and depression. However, it was an acceptable result to make inferences about individuals and groups.

The DASS-21 scales scored lower for internal consistency than DASS-42 due to the fact that it contained fewer items. However, it was within an acceptable range creating a balance between adequate consistency and adequate breadth of the measurement. The DASS-42 has a score range of 0-42 for each subscale which was upheld in a variety of populations, so does the DASS-21 since the scores are multiplied by two.

The initial development of the DASS was to differentiate between depression and anxiety. Utilising a factor analysis (the way observed correlated variables relate to unobserved variables), the DASS was administered to psychology students to identify items for the scales, depression and anxiety. A factor analysis arranges, in order of importance, values of observed data expressed as functions of possible causes.

Skype counsellor discussing Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) Relevance to New Zealand

A vast number of studies have been conducted in New Zealand (broader population) using the DASS to identify associations with depression, anxiety and stress (Robinson, Brocklesby, Garisch, et al., 2017; Kaplan, et al., 2015; Lovell, Huntsman & Hedley-Ward, 2014; Carter et al., 2014; King, 2014; Hunt, 2012; Samaranayake & Fernando, 2011; Rucklidge & Blampied, 2011).

According to the 2011/2012 New Zealand Health Survey, 14.3% of New Zealanders were diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives. Anxiety disorders also scored high, over 6.1% had disorders which include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), phobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Women scored higher than men. The diagnosis for women was 7.9% depression and 7.7% anxiety disorder v.s. 10.4% and 4.4% for men respectively. The 2012/13 Health Survey further indicates that 17.1% of deprived New Zealand adults have been diagnosed with a mental disorder, including bipolar/depression and/or anxiety disorder at some stage in their lives. This is 1.6 times higher than adults in less deprived areas. The Ministry of Health (2013) recorded for the period 2009-2013 that 1.7% (508) deaths in 2013 were suicides, with rates highest amongst Māori males,15-24. The Māori male youth suicide rate was almost twice that of Māori female, Pacific Islanders and other Asian ethnic groups as a due to stress that comes with stressors of economic and other deprivation.

Mental Health Issues

New to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is the integration of a dimensional assessment (quantifying emotional states with scores) to the categorical approach (previously strictly categorical) (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). DASS is not categorical, but a dimensional assessment based on a self-report of experiences within the past week (Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995a).

To derive a DSM-5 diagnosis during a clinical assessment, ensure that symptoms of each disorder are not attributable to a medical condition or better defined by another disorder. For a DSM-5 diagnosis, the episode should cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or essential areas of functioning (APA, 2013). The DASS timeframe for diagnosis falls outside of the DSM-5 Depression and Anxiety specification.

Major Depressive Mood Disorder must include at least five symptoms associated with criteria A in the DSM-5 presenting in a 2-week period and a change from previous functioning including one of the symptoms (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest/pleasure (APA, 2013). When considering the DASS-21 questions, depression is covered by items 3 (no positive feelings), 5 (difficulty doing things), 10 (nothing to look forward to), 13 (down-hearted), 16 (no enthusiasm), 17 (worthlessness), and 21 (meaninglessness), (Appendix A). These questions relate to negative effect.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) includes excessive anxiety and worry occurring more often than not for at least six months and affects activities such as work or school performance and is associated with three or more of category C in the DSM-5 diagnostic manual (APA, 2013). The DASS-21 questions that relate to anxiety include question 2 (mouth dryness), 4 (breathing difficulty), 7 (trembling), 9 (worry), 15 (panic), 19 (heart rate) and 20 (scared for no good reason) (Appendix A). These questions cover physiological arousal.

Acute Stress Disorder (ACD) lasts at least three days to one month after trauma exposure, and the timeframe corresponds to the DASS-21 (identify items within the past week). To diagnose ACD the client should present with at least 9 symptoms from the 5 categories found in the DSM5 (APA, 2013). Questionnaire items on the DASS that cover stress include cognitive, subjective symptoms of anxiety including scale items 1 (difficulty winding down), 6 (over-react to situations), 8 (using nervous energy), 11 (agitation), 12 (difficult to relax), 14 (intolerant), and 18 (touchy).

Functions and Limitations of the Measure
Functions of the DASS-21

In clinical settings, the DASS-21 incorporates the clients’ self-reported emotional disturbance as part of the broader assessment. In this way, the clinician can assess the severity of symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress (Shea, Tennant & Pallant, 2009). Lovibond and Lovibond (1995a) stressed that the DASS-21 should not replace a clinical interview and that other disturbances not addressed by the scales should be identified through a clinical discussion. Furthermore, the scale has no direct implications for allocating diagnostic categories according to classification systems such as the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and ICD (International Classification of Disorders).

Reliability and Validity.

The DASS-21 normative data were based on one sample comprising 717 people between the ages of 17-69 years and found to be reliable. Alpha values (significant levels) for the 7-item normative sample scales were Depression 0.81, Anxiety 0.73, Stress 0.81. The factor structure (correlation between variables that measure a particular construct) and relative performance of individual items were found virtually the same in clinical and non-clinical samples and correlated highly to that reported by Beck (1988) on a clinical sample (Lovibond & Lovibond,1995b). Depression, anxiety and stress manifested by clinical outpatients and normal non-clinical groups differed primarily in severity. The results add to evidence suggesting that emotional disorders fall on a continuum with less extreme emotional disturbance where clinical disorders may represent the severe, inappropriate or chronic manifestation of syndromes (Lovibond & Lovibond,1995a). The scales are moderately inter-correlated at approximately rs= .5 – .7 which is in line with the BDI (Beck Depression Inventory) and BAI (Beck Anxiety Inventory).

Lovibond and Lovibond(1995b) made a comparison between the DASS, Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and Beck Anxiety Inventory. They found that the anxiety scales were highly correlated (66% common variance r=0.81) and depression scales somewhat less correlated (55% r=.74). The lower cross-construct correlations between DASS and BDI scales (r=0.58 and r=0.54) indicate that there is a greater degree of convergent validity than in typically observed self-report scales.

The factor analysis was indicated as the primary reason for the lower correlation between DASS Depression and BDI, due to BDI’s inclusion of somatic symptoms, i.e. loss of libido, appetite, weight loss etc. and anxiety loss of sexual interest, loss of appetite, weight gain, increased sleep. The DASS correlates well with the Personal disturbance scale, Positive & Negative Affect Schedule, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (Osman, Wong, Bagge, et al., 2012).

Researchers found the DASS-21 to be valid, reliable and easy to administer for both clinical and research purposes (Osman, Wong, Bagge, et al., 2012; Norton, 2007; Henry, Crawford, 2005; Crawford & Henry, 2003). Additional studies replicated the psychometric properties (Da Silva et al. 2016; Tran et al. 2013; Nieuwenhuijsen et al., 2003; and more).

Administration and Scoring.

Both DASS questionnaires (21 and 42) are public domain, and no special skills are required to administer the self-report instruments. However, interpretation should be carried out by professionals. The DASS-21 can be conducted manually, online or via computer. Note that professionals do not have permission to administer the DASS on a website or app open to the public. The scale’s administration is restricted to defined groups, clients or participants in research. Electronic administration for research purposes can be automated for scoring (Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995a).

It is recommended to administer the DASS-21 during the first interview and again after treatment to measure the significance of outcomes (Ronk, Korman, Hooke, & Page, 2013). Through the DASS-21 tool, depression, anxiety and stress are measured dimensionally varying on a continuum of severity ranging between 0-3 as follows (Appendix A):
0 Did not apply to me at all
1 Applied to me to some degree, or some of the time
2 Applied to me to a considerable degree, or a good part of the time
3 Applied to me very much, or most of the time

Included in the DASS Manual, clinicians receive a plastic scoring template to place over the completed response form. Scale information, i.e. D (Depression), A (Anxiety) and S (Stress) are listed alongside the rating scales, sum scores for each scale and multiply DASS-21 scores by two (Appendix B). DASS scores can be interpreted using the DASS-21 profile sheet to enable comparisons between the scales (Appendix C) (Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995a). Table 1 is a breakdown of the severity rating from normal to extremely severe.

Even though DASS scores should not be used exclusively to assess depression, anxiety or stress, high scores would alert clinicians of high levels of distress that could be explored further during an interview. During additional DASS administrations, changes in one scale (i.e. depression) and consistently high scores in another (i.e. anxiety) could inform a clinician to pay attention to co-existing anxiety, other problems or life-events that could be directly addressed in therapy (Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995a).

Cross-Cultural Application.

The DASS had over 25 translations available (Parkitny & McAuley, 2010) and was validated in numerous contexts including generational and racial groups (Norton, 2007). The measure is also widely used internationally (Oei, Sawang, Yong, & Mukhtar, 2013). Furthermore, the DASS was applied to older persons (Gloster, et al., 2008), children and adolescents (Szabó & Lovibond, 2006; Szabó, 2010; da Silva et al., 2016), from military veterans (MacDonell, Bhullar & Thorsteinsson, 2016) to validating the DASS-21 as screening tool in rural northern Vietnamese women (Tran, Tran & Fisher, 2013).

Limitations of the DASS-21

When using self-report questionnaires, psychologists rely on the honesty of participants. The DASS is unable to identify malingering (Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995a). Furthermore, people have different ways of completing forms; some prefer extreme points while others use midpoints, hence, completing questions may be unintentionally biased (Austin, Gibson, Deary, et al., 1998).

The DASS-21 is a screening tool for professionals to assess low or disturbed mood in clients. Caution is advised when using the scales since severity ratings were obtained from large, mostly heterogeneous samples of individual ratings. “The further away the score from a population mean the more severe the symptoms” (Parkitny & McAuley, 2010 p.204).

When considering risk, the DASS-21 does not assess suicidality. Risk assessment should be carried out during the clinical interview. According to Lovibond and Lovibond (1995a) items for suicidal tendencies were not found on any scale and an experienced clinician will recognise the need for a comprehensive risk assessment.

If you enjoyed, Skype counsellor discussing Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) drop us an email in the contact form below.  We’d like to hear from you.

Contact us today

Thank you for reading Skype counsellor discussing Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS).  If you found this article interesting, then feel free to subscribe to our newsletter.


For the article Skype counsellor discussing Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS), below are useful references if you want to find out more.

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Austin, E. J., Deary, I. J., Gibson, G. J., McGregor, M. J., & Dent, J. B. (1998). Individual response spread in self-report scales: Personality correlations and consequences. Personality and Individual Differences, 24(3), 421-438.

Beaufort, I. N., De Weert-Van-Oene, G.H., Buwalda, V. A. J., de Leeuw, J. R. J., & Goudriaan, A. E. (2017). The Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) as a Screener for Depression in Substance Use Disorder Inpatients: A Pilot Study. European Addiction Research. 23, 260–268.

Carter F. A., Bell, C. J., Ali, A.N., McKenzie. J, & Wilkinson, T. J. (2014). The impact of major earthquakes on the psychological functioning of medical students: a Christchurch, New Zealand study. The New Zealand Medical Journal.;127(1398), 54-66.

Church, J., Fergusson, D., Horwood, J., & Poulton, R. (2014). Incredible Years Follow-up Study: Long-term follow-up of the New Zealand Incredible Years Pilot Study. Published by Ministry of Social Development.

Crawford, J. R., & Henry, J. D. (2003) The depression anxiety stress scale (DASS): normative data and latent structure in a large non-clinical sample. Br J Clin Psych. 42, 111-131

Da Silva, H. A., dos Passos, M. H. P., de Oliveira, V. M. A., Palmeira, A. C., Pitangui, A. C. R., & de Araújo, R. C. (2016). Short version of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21: is it valid for Brazilian adolescents? Einstein, 14(4), 486–493. http://doi.org/10.1590/S1679-45082016AO3732

Gloster, A.T., Rhoades, H.M., Novy, D., Klotsche, J., Senior, A., Kunik, M., Wilson, N. & Stanley, M.A. (2008). Psychometric properties of the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale-21 in older primary care patients. Journal of Affective Disorders, 110, 248-259.

Henry, J. D., & Crawford, J. R. (2005). The short-form version of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21): construct validity and normative data in a large non-clinical sample. Br J Clin Psychol. 44, (Pt 2), 227-39.

Hunt, B, D. (2012). The Impact of Anxiety, Depression, and Cognitive Factors Associated with Anxiety, on Every Risk Taking Behaviour. Massey University – Wellington New Zealand

Robinson, K., Brocklesby, M., Garisch, J. A., O’Connell, A., Langlands, R., Russell, L., Kingi, T., Brown, E., & Wilson, M. S. (2017). Socioeconomic deprivation and non-suicidal selfinjury in New Zealand adolescents: The mediating role of depression and anxiety. New Zealand Journal of Psychology Vol. 46, 3.

Kaplan, B. J., Rucklidge, J. J., Romijn, A. R., & Dolph, M. (2015). A randomised trial of nutrient supplements to minimise psychological stress after a natural disaster. Psychiatry Research. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2015.05.080i

King, J., (2014). Review of Outcomes for Clients who use Methamphetamine. Report prepared for Higher Ground Drug Rehabilitation Trust. Auckland: Julian King & Associates Limited – a member of the Kinnect Group.

Lovell, J. P., Huntsman, A., & Hedley‐Ward, J. (2014). Psychological distress, depression, anxiety, stress, and exercise in Australian and New Zealand mothers: A cross‐sectional survey. MBA https://doi.org/10.1111/nhs.12128

Lovibond, S. H., & Lovibond, P. F. (1995a). Manual for the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (2nd ed.). Sydney: Psychology Foundation. (Available from The Psychology Foundation, Room 1005 Mathews Building, University of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Australia)

Lovibond, P. F., & Lovibond, S. H. (March 1995b). The structure of negative emotional states: Comparison of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) with the Beck Depression and Anxiety Inventories. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 33 (3): 335–343. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(94)00075-U. PMID 7726811.

MacDonell, G. V., Bhullar, N., & Thorsteinsson, E. B. (2016). Depression, anxiety, and stress in partners of Australian combat veterans and military personnel: a comparison with Australian population norms. PeerJ 4:e2373 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.2373

Ministry of Health. (2015). Office of the Director of Mental Health Annual Report 2014. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Health. (2016). Suicide Facts: Deaths and intentional self-harm hospitalisations 2013. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Ministry of Health. (2017). Te Whānau Pou Toru. The University of Auckland. Wellington.

New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists Code of Ethics (2002). http://www.psychologistsboard.org.nz/cms_show_download.php?id=237

New Zealand Association of Counsellors. (2002). Code of ethics: A framework for ethical practice. Retrieved from http://www.nzac.org.nz/code_of_ethics.cfm

Nieuwenhuijsen, K., de Boer, A. G. E. M., Verbeek, J. H. A. M., Blonk, R. W. B., & van Dijk, F. J. H. (2003). The Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS): detecting anxiety disorder and depression in employees absent from work because of mental health problems. BMJ Journals. Volume 60, Issue Suppl 1

Norton, P. J. (2007). Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS): Psychometric analysis across four racial groups. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping. An International Journal, 20, 253-265.

Oei, T. P. S., Sawang, S. G., Yong, W., & Mukhtar, F. (2013). Using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale 21 (DASS-21) across cultures. International Journal of Psychology, 48 6. 1018-1029. doi:10.1080/00207594.2012.755535

Osman, A., Wong, J. L., Bagge, C. L., Freedenthal. S., Gutierrez, P. M., & Lozano, G. (2012). The depression anxiety stress scales – 21 (DASS21): further examination of dimensions, scale reliability, and correlates. J Clin Psych. 68 (12), 1322-1338.

Parkitny, L., & McAuley, J. (2010). The Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS). Journal of Physiotherapy. 56

Ronk, F. R., Korman, J. R., Hooke, G. R., & Page, A. C. (2013). Assessing ClinicalSignificance of Treatment Outcomes Using the DASS-21. Psychological Assessment. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0033100

Rucklidge, J. J., & Blampied, N. M. (2011). Post-Earthquake Psychological Functioning in Adults with AttentionDeficit / Hyperactivity Disorder: Positive Effects of Micronutrients on Resilience. New Zealand Journal of Psychology. 40, 4.

Samaranayake, C. B., & Fernando, A. T. (2011) Satisfaction with life and depression among medical students in Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand Medical Journal. 24, (1341), 12-17.

Shea, T. L., Tennant, A., & Pallant, J. F. (2009). Rasch model analysis of the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS). BMC Psychiatry, 9, 21. http://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244X-9-21

Szabó, M. (2010). The short version of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21). Factor structure in a young adolescent sample. Journal of Adolescence, 33, 1-8.

Szabó, M., & Lovibond, P.F. (2006). Anxiety, depression and tension/stress in children. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 28 3, 195-205.

Tran, D, T., Tran, T., & Fisher, J. (2013) Validation of the depression anxiety stress scales (DASS) 21 as a screening instrument for depression and anxiety in a rural community-based cohort of northern Vietnamese women. BMC Psychiatryv.13; 2013PMC3566910

28 Jun 2018

BY: Online Therapy

Anxiety / Assessment / Counselling / Depression / Online Counselling / Online Counsellor / Online therapist / Online Therapy

Comments: No Comments

Online Therapist Analysing InTreatment Week 4 | Sophie & Paul

Article by Anna Keyter

Online Therapist Analysing InTreatment Week 4 | Sophie & Paul:

This article is a critical analysis of a therapy session based on an assessment of the HBO episode: In Treatment.  (Disc Four) with Sophie and Paul. The purpose of the session was for Paul to write a report on Sophie’s suicidality. However, the assessment turned into therapy. Sophie presents self-harming behaviour, risky sexual activity and substance use.

Sophie was raped and exhibits the typical acting out behaviour of teenage rape victims. Signs of adolescent rape include conduct such as extreme agitation, anger outbursts, depression, sleep and school problems (NSOPW, n.d.). She also engages in alcohol misuse, promiscuity, eating disorder and running away from home and possibly comorbid depression (DSM5, 2013). Contextual variables, including transference-countertransference, will be discussed first, followed by the strategies Paul used to develop the therapeutic relationship. Ruptures will be addressed firstly by looking at ethical challenges that arose followed by ruptures due to cues Paul missed during the session. Each section describes behaviours/events and recommendations on the ruptures that occurred during the session.

Contextual Variables

The contextual variables will be discussed in terms of countertransference and transference experienced by Paul (therapist) and Sophie (client). From a psychodynamic perspective, countertransference can be defined as the therapist’s subconscious emotional reaction to the experiences of the client. Transference is when the client subconsciously redirects feelings for one person to the therapist. Gelso (2014) refers to a tripartite model of psychodynamic intervention, “asserting that all therapeutic relationships, to varying degrees, consist of a real relationship, a working alliance, and a transference-countertransference configuration”.

Paul | Countertransference

Paul, a middle-aged man with children, is providing therapy to Sophie, a teenage girl who was raped. Sophie’s experiences affect Paul. Countertransference is not necessarily bad and could serve as an internal barometer to assess personal reactions to social interaction when the psychologist is aware of it (Gelso, 2014). During my observation of the session, Paul seemed to assume an almost fatherly role in his interaction with Sophie which could be due to a subconscious need to act as a parent to her. Schaeffer (2007) expresses the importance for therapists to identify transference and countertransference as soon as possible for the therapist to be in control of it and not be controlled by it.

Hence, countertransference could be useful if Paul examines his reasons for the way he behaves. Even though Paul is a psychodynamic therapist, I am uncertain if he is aware of his emotions of countertransference. Paul should pursue personal therapy to distinguish reasons for the countertransference that was evoked by Sophie throughout the session. In particular, Paul reacted strongly when Sophie’s commented on the gymnast that told her sex with her was like having sex with someone who had been sexually abused. Paul responded by saying “Prick”. At one stage Paul also tried to comfort Sophie by putting his arm around her and stroking her shoulder and hugging her (which could have ethical implications).

Sophie | Transference

Sophie is a teenage girl who was referred to Paul after a bicycle accident that was possibly a suicide attempt. She has a strained relationship with her mother and only mentioned her father once. She is a hopeful Olympic level gymnast. However, she had been sexually abused by her coach Sy. Initially, the relationship with Sy’s family seemed close; she spent time at their house, babysitting their daughter Dena.

Sophie was on Sy’s bicycle the night of the accident, and it should have been Paul’s intention to assess possible suicidal behaviour. The helping relationship should be the interaction between the therapist’s intentions and the client’s reactions (Hill, 2014). According to Gelso (2014), the therapeutic relationship is the core of successful psychotherapy, and the two critical elements of the therapeutic relationship are transference and the real relationship. As a psychodynamic therapist, Paul should encourage this transference intentionally to assist Sophie to get insight into her distress through the therapeutic relationship. Transference is the way the client experiences and perceives the therapist. However, the client is shaped by her psychological structures, including past experiences and involves the displacement and carrying the feelings, attitudes, and behaviours to the therapist deriving from earlier significant relationships (Gelso, 2014).

Sophie displayed sexualised behaviour when she entered the therapy room. Paul did not successfully use transference to develop the conversation around transference behaviour. Instead, he played into it by taking her hand and bowing. During the session, Sophie seemed to “transfer” feelings from people in her life to her therapist Paul by the way she interacted with him. It is interesting to note that Sophie tried to commit suicide using Sy’s bike and taking an overdose of Paul’s medication in his office. Is Sophie trying to say something by using something belonging to Sy and Paul to commit suicide?

Therapeutic Strategies and Skills

Paul is a Psychodynamic therapist however, his methods seem more in line with the Rogerian model. Paul’s strategies include empathic reflections, probing for insights and listening. A positive of the session was that Sophie could speak openly and freely about her problems. Paul was listening to Sophie and displayed nonverbal cues such as nodding and using gestures. He prompted for more information by asking open-ended questions and restated comments.   Paul also used alternatives, commenting that Sophie tried to get her mother’s attention by running away from her.

Therapeutic Alliance Ruptures

Safran and Muran (2000) define therapeutic alliance ruptures as impasses or ruptures in the therapeutic alliance. Three roads can lead to an impasse – therapist and client developing a hopeless narrative about presenting difficulties; therapeutic strategy halts; leaving the interaction trapped in a negative pattern. To overcome the impasse, the therapist should become solution-focused and get help during the consultation on developing a new strategy (Safran & Muran, 2000).

Many ruptures occurred during the session as indicated below:
Safran (1993) views ruptures in the therapeutic relationship as the breakdown of the collaboration between therapist and client as indicated below.

Contracting | Privacy and Confidentiality

Problem. Psychologists should be respectful to clients by including them in the decision-making process. Paul called Sophie’s mother behind her back. He did not obtain full and active participation from Sophie on decisions that affected her. Sophie mentioned her mother took her shopping on the weekend because Paul told the mother she was going to “off” herself. Sophie asked Paul why he called her mother. Later on, Sophie expressed anger in an outburst again, telling him how upset she was that he called her mother and told her she was going to kill herself. Paul brushed it off.

Recommendation. During the initial assessment, Paul should have discussed informed consent and the implications thereof. Before involving Sophie’s mother on her suicidal thoughts, Paul should have explained to Sophie that psychologists promote their client’s right to privacy, however, when there is a threat of harm to self and others they are compelled by law to report it. The relationship could repair if the client actively participates in the change process (Horvath, 2009).

Challenges in future sessions. Sophie may become reluctant to share critical information, and risk assessment could become difficult.

Responsible Caring

Issue. Paul seemed oblivious to the harm caused to Sophie as a result of the ruptures in their relationship. He did not clarify what Sophie could expect from the therapeutic encounter. On a number of occasions, Paul pushed Sophie to go on with her story, even when she was not ready to continue. Paul did not handle the situation competently; he was more interested in what happened next than how the event affected Sophie emotionally.

Recommendation. The therapist’s ideas should not be imposed on the client in therapy (Safran & Muran, 2000). Problems should be addressed within the therapeutic alliance so that the client can reflect on problems. Paul needs to discuss this case in supervision to get guidance on how to deal with the situation.

Issue. When Sophie showed Paul a backflip, she started to walk on the back of the couch; Paul did not know how to deal with the situation. He asked her to stop, but instead of addressing his concerns about her safety, after a perfect landing he said, “That was incredible.”

Recommendation. Paul should discuss potentially harmful behaviours honestly and openly with Sophie and establish boundaries within their relationship. In this way, Sophie could model boundary behaviours from Paul.

Issue. During the session, Sophie also disclosed that Sy had a sexual relationship with her, which Paul seemed to miss.

Recommendation. Paul should have addressed the seriousness of the situation with Sophie and worked towards a plan on how to report the case to the police.

Challenges in future sessions. Paul seems to have difficulty understanding serious issues and how to address it in a lawful way as well as safety practices in his office.

Integrity in Relationships

Issue. Paul was not honest with Sophie. When Sophie confronted Paul about his phone call to her mother, he said: “That’s not what I said.” Later on, Paul admitted to Sophie that he told her mother saying “because I was worried about you.”

Recommendation. A therapist with integrity would have an honest approach. Not dealing with Sophie’s question could hamper trust going forward. Sophie could also view this as an empathic failure and end the relationship. However, the relationship could still repair if they work through the trust issues.

Issue. Sophie does not have clear boundaries; she mentioned: “screwing half the Olympic gymnastics team.” She stayed up all night after a party and then walked to her session for her appointment with Paul. He does not seem to pick up on her cues about her excessive drinking and a boy that she felt was ‘eye candy’. Her lack of boundaries are further apparent when she lies on his couch, and it seemed like she was falling asleep.

Paul’s behaviour did not help. A boundary infringement from Paul was when he sat in front of Sophie, his face only inches away from hers and encouraged her to talk. He then got up and sat very close to Sophie. As a therapist, he should be aware of the boundary breakdown experienced by raped teenagers. He moved next to her and stroked her shoulder, which is highly inappropriate behaviour for a therapist.

Recommendation. Paul should understand the underlying issues of boundaries, perhaps attend a course on how to work with teenage survivors of rape. Paul could have used cognitive processing therapy. CPT treatment includes education, exposure and cognitive techniques. Survivors identify sections of the trauma that they battle to process and then work through stuck points (Galovski, Schuster Wachen, Chard, Manson & Resick, 2015).

Challenges in future sessions. Paul did not address the issue of personal boundaries with Sophie. If Paul does not address or respect boundaries, Sophie could remain vulnerable and victimised.

Responsibility to Society

Paul needs to engage in regular supervision to monitor, assess, and report on his ethical practices to safeguard his clients. An honest exploration of his countertransference would resolve the generational issues he possibly experienced. Furthermore, if Paul does not report Sy to the police, Paul would be doing a disservice to society as a whole, especially vulnerable groups.

Feelings of Dissociation.

Sophie tells Paul about a risky sexual encounter; a gymnast took her to his room, as usual, she felt nothing. On another occasion she said, “everything around me was falling apart, disintegrating, turning to ash right in front of me, … But as soon as I started to fall asleep the pasture would turn to rot, it’s terrible.” Sophie further commented on her eating disorder and how she experienced floating on clouds disassociating from her body when she would not eat when she was younger. She felt that same feeling of when she was on the beam, and enjoyed the sense of disassociation; she pushed until it felt like she didn’t have a body at all.

Effect on Relationship. Paul missed the consistent theme of disassociation.

Recommendation. From a behavioural perspective, survivors of rape can be assisted using CBT (Jaycox, Zoellner & Fao, 2002). Paul can help Sophie to get a new understanding of her thinking patterns that can lead to behavioural change and an understanding of underlying assumptions by directly addressing disassociation. According to the DSM5, disassociation is common in people who experienced PTSD.

Feelings of being objectified

Sophie felt that her mother hated that she was a gymnast. Her mother said:“Your boobs won’t grow, you will hate your body, be deformed”. Her mother also decided on the shoes.   “She picked out those Barbie doll shoes” | “Sophie wore those Barbie doll shoes that you bought her…”

Effect on Relationship. Sophie felt objectified by her mother. Paul did not recognise Sophie’s feelings, and he did not explore the Barbie doll comments.

Recommendation. Paul should explore Sophie’s feelings on the shoes and her position as a gymnast. He did not ask her what Barbie doll meant to her. Paul is aware of Sophie’s eating disorder and body image issues. I would recommend DBT strategies which include mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness to help Sophie deal with these issues (Cooper & Parsons, 2010).

The desire to run away

Sophie expressed a desire to run away from her mother to the gymnasium. However, she is unable to get away from her mother.

Effects on Relationship. It is clear that Sophie is not happy at home. Instead of addressing her feelings to run away, Paul tells her the Wizard of Oz story.  “…They remind me of, of Dorothy’s shoes. Dorothy discovered that she could go home anytime she wants with or without her shoes.” This was upsetting for Sophie, and she asked him “Why are you infantasizing me?”

Recommendation. Paul did not explore the reasons Sophie wanted to run to the gymnasium. He also did not ask her what she would find there. Exploration (Rogerian approach) could have worked in this instance.

Suicidal thoughts and attempts

Sophie came to therapy to get assessed for suicidal behaviour. The situation that brought her to therapy was when she was on Sy’s bike, and she admitted to Paul that she tried to kill herself. At the end of the session, Sophie went to Paul’s bathroom to vomit, reflected in the mirror, opened the medicine cabinet and removed a bottle of pills and consumed them. Once out of the bathroom, she said she’s going home. Paul told Sophie that they had more time, but she started slurring and fell to the ground.

Effects on the relationship. Sophie attempted suicide using Paul’s medication. This could be due to the culmination of therapeutic ruptures.

Recommendation. Paul did not do a proper risk assessment knowing that Sophie was suicidal. He did not ask her about suicidal plans or how often she had thoughts of killing herself. He should have worked with her on a safety plan. Knowing that he had a suicidal client, he should have removed the medication from his public bathroom.


Therapeutic collaboration stopped when Sophie attempted suicide. Paul did not explore the ruptures that happened during therapy. He did not seem to notice that the therapeutic interaction was blocked. Sophie was unable to cope, and Paul seemed distracted. Behaviours associated with the rupture include Paul’s inability to pick up on Sophie’s cues and the distress she expressed as a result of him speaking to her mother behind her back. When Paul did not know how to respond to issues, he brushed it off or changed the topic. Cozolino (2004) highlights the importance of the psychologist’s intentions to explore the client’s experiences in the moment, which Paul seemed unable to do.

If you want to discuss the article Online Therapist Analysing InTreatment Week 4 | Sophie & Paul, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@onlinetherapy.co.nz.

Contact us today


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Code of Ethics For Psychologists Working in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Retrieved May 27, 2018, from http://www.psychologistsboard.org.nz/cms_show_download.php?id=237

Cooper, B., Parsons, J. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy: A social work intervention? Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 21 (4), 83-93.

Cozolino, L. (2004). The making of a therapist. New York, USA: W.W. Norton & Company.

Galovski, T.E., Wachen J.S., Chard K.M., Monson C.M., Resick P.A. (2015). Cognitive Processing Therapy. In: Schnyder U., Cloitre M. (eds) Evidence Based Treatments for Trauma-Related Psychological Disorders. Springer, Cham

Gelso, C. (2014). A tripartite model of the therapeutic relationship: theory, research, and practice. Psychother Res, 24 (2), 117-31

HBO Transcript. Macdissi, P. (Producer). (2009). TV Broadcast [Therapy transcript]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sGCxPFzfDQ

Hill, C. E. (2014). Helping skills: Facilitating exploration, insight, and action (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Horvath, A. O. (2009). How real is the “real relationship?” Psychotherapy Research, 19, 273–277.

Jaycox, L.H., Zoellner. L., Foa, E.B. (2002). Cognitive-behavior therapy for PTSD in rape survivors. J Clin Psychol, 58 (8), 891-906.

NSOPW. US Department of Justice. (n.d.). Recognizing Sexual Abuse. Retrieved May 27, 2018, from https://www.nsopw.gov/en/education/recognizingsexualabuse

Safran, J.D. (1993). The therapeutic alliance rupture as a transtheoretical phenomenon: Definitional and conceptual issues. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 3, 33– 49.

Safran, J. D., & Muran, J. C. (2000). Negotiating the therapeutic alliance: A relational treatment guide. New York: Guilford Press.

Schaeffer, J. A. (2007). Transference and countertransference in non-analytic therapy: Double-edged swords. New York: UniversityPress of America.

23 Apr 2018

BY: Online Therapy

Assessment / Counselling / Ethics / Online therapist / Online Therapy / Treaty of Waitangi

Comments: No Comments

Counselling | Treaty of Waitangi

Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the importance in counselling:

It is essential to understand Māori health and wellbeing and Te Tiriti o Waitangi as it relates to mental health in order to address cultural issues in practice. The treaty was a negotiation between Māori and the Crown to establish New Zealand as a British colony. In modern society, this partnership extends to developing health strategies for Māori to obtain proper health services. This also extends to the protection of Māori cultural concepts and values. Māori communities are encouraged to engage in the planning and development of health strategies that would have an impact on them.

Counselling | Treaty of Waitangi

A counsellor in New Zealand should take into account cultural aspects such as physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. Furthermore, therapists need to acknowledge cultural identity when working with Māori communities. Supporting Māori on an emotional level includes a commitment to their identity and counsellors should use approaches that would assist Māori to re-connect with their communities after interventions due to the importance they place on whanau (related and extended families).

Treaty of Waitangi Framework includes but is not limited to:
  • Te Reo Māori: Using Te Reo Māori to show respect, holding onto identity and being guardians of Māori Culture.
  • Tuakiri Tangata: Acknowledges Māori persona, personality and identity. Here we consider principles such as cultural aspects but also physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.
  • Tikanga Māori: Involves previous generations and how to live by Māori values. Tikanga comprises values from previous generations but also taking generational advancement into account. Māori expresses underlying principles differently even though the roots remain the same.
  • Whakawhanaunga: There are different interpretations of whānau, that being said, a general meaning assigned to it is family members who share common descent. As a counsellor, it is important to understand the different roles whānau occupy and the responsibilities assigned to each role.
  • Hauora Māori: Perspectives on health and wellbeing. The models and frameworks that underpin Maori health and wellbeing is an inclusive and holistic worldview. What makes these models unique is the relationship Māori have to the land and the link to whakapapa/genealogy.
  • Manaaki: It is required that Māori behave in ways that enhance the mana of others, i.e. be honouring people, providing service, respect and generosity. This highlights the importance of positive service and is specifically relevant to the mental health and addictions contexts.

Counsellors should pay particular attention to multiculturalism and the effect it has on relationships. Culture is more than race and ethnicity, it also includes gender, age ideology, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, occupation and lifestyle issues. Members of cultural groups may also differ from their group’s description. When working from a cultural framework, it is important to consider enculturation (retaining indigenous culture) and acculturation (adapting to dominant culture). The counsellor should recognise which helping skill is more effective for clients within their cultural framework (Hill, 2014).

Need to know more?  Call us +(64) 9 888 0779  or complete the contact form.

Pua Wanaanga course

Hill, C. E. (2014). Helping skills: Facilitating exploration, insight, and action (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Contact us today

19 Apr 2018

BY: Online Therapy

Assessment / Counselling / Couple Counselling / Online Counselling / Online Counsellor / Online therapist / Online Therapy / Treatment

Comments: No Comments

Therapeutic Relationship Online Therapist

Article by Anna Keyter

Factors that promote or hinder the therapeutic relationship | Online Therapist:

There are endless factors that could affect the therapeutic relationship. Hill (2014) stresses the importance of understanding one’s own motives for becoming a counsellor and monitoring them. Personal therapy contributes to a counsellor’s own growth and self-understanding which is an important aspect when assisting clients. For instance, issues that a client may raise may stir up helper personal issues. The therapist needs to be able to bracket uncomfortable reactions and attend to the client’s issues in order to promote constructive therapeutic interactions. Furthermore, counsellor and client variables should be considered, these include personalities, belief systems and demographics that could affect the helping relationship. Sometimes people get along, and other times it is a mismatch. As a therapist, it is crucial to understanding your own biases, assumptions and worldview to be open to the norms, values and cultural heritage of helpees (Sue & Sue, 2007).

Therapist’s Intentions

A helper’s intentions are based on everything s/he knows about the client at a particular moment. These motives are not always apparent to the counsellor or client at the time because they discover different layers of feelings, thoughts and emotions as they go on (Hill, 2014).  Cozolino (2004) stresses the importance of focusing on exploring the client’s experiences in the moment. If the counsellor is not with the client moment-by-moment, s/he won’t be able to formulate intentions based on the current situation (Hill, 2014). Therapists should be present to assess the client’s information and decide on specific skills.

Counsellor Skills

Clients react by reevaluating their needs, goals and decisions based on the counsellor’s intervention. Brew and Kottler (2016) are of the opinion that clients believe counsellors have the power to assist them but first, it is important to gain confidence in their counselling skills. That being said, Cozolino ( 2004) highlights the importance of being good enough as a therapist. He states that even though environments are not perfect, it could still be adequate when there exists a good therapeutic relationship. The information gained from the client should be based on the therapist’s skills.  These skills include reflecting on feelings, facilitating self-disclosure and asking open-ended questions. A professional attitude and having the right manner when probing is also conducive to the intervention process (Hill, 2014).

In Conclusion

Self-understanding contributes to a counsellor’s ability to listen to the thoughts and feelings of their clients in a nonjudgmental way (Rogers, 1961).  A professional therapeutic relationship is all about listening empathically and supporting clients through difficult times.  Counsellors facilitate a different perspective on problems and assist clients to take action to improve their lives (Hill, 2014). In order to help clients make sense of ambiguity and confusing stimuli, therapists assist in defining goals. Helpers further assess and reevaluate the client’s goals as a reaction to interventions. The helping relationship is thus an interaction between the helper’s intentions and the client’s reactions. A counsellor’s own awareness guides the selection of effective interventions. By paying attention to the client’s feelings the therapist can develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Need to know more?  Call us +(64) 9 888 0779  or complete the contact form.

Contact us today

Side bar