Being seduced:

Trainee therapists’ reactions to and handling of client sexual attraction in therapy


  • Maria Luca, Dr Regent’s University London


sexual attraction in therapy; trainee counselling psychologists and psychotherapists; moralistic responses, defensive handling, constructivist grounded theory


This study explored how trainee therapists react to and handle client sexual attraction (SA) in their work. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 12 volunteer trainees of counselling psychology and psychotherapy who responded to an advert. Transcripts were analysed using constructivist grounded theory (GT). The conceptual stages developed highlight the difficulties trainees experience in relation to client sexual attraction: conflicting feelings and anxious professional beliefs encapsulated in moralistic reactions, culminating in defensive handling of sexual attraction. These psychological conditions seem to be a strategy for professional survival. The trainee experience is captured in the core category: Moralistic Responses to Sexual Attraction and Defensive Handling, associated with a climate of fear that client sexual attraction could potentially influence the therapist into behaving unethically. The study found that trainees believe that professionalism is free of sexual feelings whether these are client, therapist or mutual.

Author Biography

Maria Luca, Dr, Regent’s University London

Dr Maria Luca is Senior Research Fellow and Reader at the School of Psychotherapy & Psychology, and Head of the Reflections Research Centre, at Regent’s University London. Previously she was Head of School of Psychotherapy and Counselling Psychology. She is an integrative/interpersonal therapist who worked in the National Health Service for 12 years and currently has a small private practice in London. She is a reviewer for various publishers and peer reviewed journals. Her current research projects include: sexual attraction and the erotic in therapy; sexual bullying among University students; the lived experience of migrants; medically unexplained symptoms & grounded theory. She supervises the research of PhD and taught Doctorate students and is external examiner for Doctorate theses. She has given papers widely, both nationally and internationally. Included in her publications are: Luca, M. (2014) Sexual Attraction in Therapy: Clinical Perspectives on Moving Beyond the Taboo: A Guide for Training and Practice. Wiley: London. Luca, M. (2004) The Therapeutic Frame in the Clinical Context: Integrative Perspectives’, Brunner‐Routledge: London. Luca, M. (2002) ‘Containment of the Sexualized and Erotized Transference’, Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 11(4), 649-662




How to Cite

Luca, M. (2018). Being seduced:: Trainee therapists’ reactions to and handling of client sexual attraction in therapy. European Journal for Qualitative Research in Psychotherapy, 8, 23–33. Retrieved from