Journal of Counseling Psychology
Thirteen adults in long-term individual psychotherapy were interviewed regarding their internal representations (defined as bringing to awareness the internalized "image") of their therapists. Results indicated that in the context of a good therapeutic relationship, clients' internal representations combined auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (i.e., felt presence) modalities; were triggered when clients thought about past or future sessions, or when distressed; occurred in diverse locations; and varied in frequency, duration, and intensity. Clients felt positively about their representations and used them to introspect or influence therapy within sessions, beyond sessions, or both. The frequency of, comfort with, and use of clients' internal representations increased over the course of therapy, and the representations benefited the therapy and therapeutic relationship. Therapists tended not to take a deliberate role in creating clients' internal representations, and few clients discussed their internal representations with their therapists.