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Transference and counter-transference in coaching

 

Disciplines > Coaching > Articles > Transference and counter-transference in coaching

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Transference is a phenomena described in psychoanalysis whereby a person projects desires onto another. The most common form of this is where the client forms an emotional attachment with the coach, elevating them to an idealized position where the coach takes the place of a parent or partner.

Counter-transference occurs where the coach responds to the transference, typically accepting the psychological 'promotion'. As a result, the relationship subtly changes.

In coaching, transference can happen the other way too, as the coach admires the successful executive and all they have achieved.

Example

A manager feels very comfortable when they are with their coach. In some ways, it reminds the manager of an understanding priest she used to know. As a result, she starts confessing things she has done wrong. In counter-transference, the coach 'forgives' the manager and sets them tasks of atonement.

Discussion

The key word in matters of transference is change. When one person transfers, the relationship changes. This can be a sharp change. It can also be subtle and imperceptible. The real danger is that it stops being a coaching relationship and becomes something else.

The main message here, then, is one of vigilance by the coach and refusal to accept what can be a very flattering request.

See also

Psychoanalysis, Transference, Counter-transference

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