Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, September 14, 2018

Three Psychological Factors that Define Client Interactions

FruedEstate planners can expect to face three different psychological phenomena in their interactions with clients: transference, countertransference, and triangles in relationships. Sometimes these occurrences can be positive, negative, or simply benign. Being aware of them and their effects can increase the likelihood that they are not detrimental to your relationship with your clients.

"Transference” is a phenomenon in which people transfer feelings and attitudes, often subconsciously, from a person or situation in their past onto a present person or situation. It may involve the projection of a mental representation of a previous experience or person on to the present situation or person with whom they’re interacting. It could be prior negative interactions with attorneys, or a general idea about the current situation.

Countertransference is defined as the often subconscious response of the recipient person to the client’s actions or perceived actions. It could involve professional or income bias, as in if an estate planner has dealt with unruly or rude clients of a certain profession the planner now may believe that everyone in that profession is the same way and not be as open-minded to the new client as they should.

According to Dr. Bowen, a psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry and a pioneer in the area of family systems theory back in the 1950s, a two-person system is unstable because it tolerates little tension before one or both participants “triangle in” a third person to reduce their anxiety that the tension between the participants caused. The third entity forming the triangle could be the estate planner themselves, another family member, a deceased person, or even an inanimate object or possession.

See L. Paul Hood, Jr, Three Psychological Factors that Define Client Interactions, Wealth Management, September 6, 2018.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.) for bringing this article to my attention.


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