PSYCHOTHERAPY WITH HIV AND AIDS PATIENTS: THE PHENOMENON OF HELPLESSNESS IN THERAPISTS

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Abstract

The biopsychosocial complexities of the HIV and AIDS epidemic create specific challenges for mental health professionals, including heightened levels of stress that may include feelings of helplessness. The discussion herein focuses on the phenomenon of helplessness in psychotherapists who work with persons with HIV and AIDS, including a description of some manifestations of helplessness and the biopsychosocial conditions that may contribute to feelings of helplessness in work with this clinical group. Social cognition, psychodynamic, and existential perspectives are applied to elucidate some of the psychological factors contributing to the emergence of pervasive helplessness that may adversely affect professional and personal functioning. Implications for management and attenuation of therapist helplessness are discussed from each of these three perspectives.

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