Conversational Avoidance To Incest And Non-Incest Statements During An Initial Interview (counselor-Client, Counter Transference)

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology


Purpose. The purpose of this research was to investigate the effects of sex guilt of counselors, and age of the client, on the amount of conversational avoidance to incest and non-incest statements during an initial interview.Procedure. Volunteer subjects were 25 master's and doctoral level students in Counseling Psychology and 16 elementary guidance counselors currently employed by the Dade County Board of Public Instruction. They were administered the Carkhuff Communication Index and the Mosher Forced-Choice Guilt Inventory-Sex Guilt Scale, and divided into high and low groups by a median split of the scores on the Mosher Scale. The Carkhuff Index was used to obtain homogeneity within the group by eliminating extreme scores.Conversational avoidance, the dependent variable, is defined as "replies to a client's verbal statements which stop or inhibit a client's further expression." It was measured during a staged counseling interview with a confederate client. The confederates were two professional actresses (aged 10 and 30) representing themselves as victims of incest. Amount of conversational avoidance was measured by performing a content analysis to subjects' replies to ten client statements which were inserted into a 45-minute counseling session. The statements, developed by the researcher, included five general statements of stressful developmental issues, and five statements about the incest experience. Both the Carkhuff Communication Index and the counseling tapes were rated by advanced doctoral students trained by the researcher.A 2 x 2 x 2 split-plot design, utilizing MANOVA, was used to determine the effects of the two between group factors: level of sex guilt and age of client on the repeated measures factor--conversation avoidance to general or incest type of statements. A t-test was computed to examine the difference between the adult and child client on conversational avoidance to the general or incest statements.Results. The following differences were obtained: (1) there was more conversational avoidance to the incest statements for the total population, and (2) there was more conversational avoidance to the incest statements when the client was an adult. Counselors with high sex guilt scores did not show a greater degree of conversational avoidance to incest statements than did counselors with low sex guilt scores.Conclusions. It can be concluded that counselors tend to avoid discussing the topic of incest in a therapy situation--especially if the client is an adult, who introduces the incest material. Guilt feelings in the area of sexuality do not appear to determine whether counselors will avoid the topic of incest.


Education, Educational Psychology

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