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Counter-transference

 

Disciplines > Psychoanalysis > Concepts > Counter-transference

Description | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Counter-transference is the effect that transference has on a person and how they respond as a result.

In particular, counter-transference is relevant for analysts who may easily become the target of their patients' affections and who, if they are not careful, may respond inappropriately and in a way that reinforces rather than acts to resolve their patients' problems.

Discussion

Any relational engagement, including an analyst and the patient operates as a single system with some form of bonding between the parties and likely subsequent unconscious interaction.

Kleinian psychotherapists are trained to pay attention to the effect of transference on them, noticing how they feel when their patients use transference, and how their own inner world is impacted. This gives them an additional tool in understanding how their patients are operating.

Clients who project onto the analyst may watch for signs of counter-transference to indicate that they have affected the analyst and are hence in control. Games of control may thus ensue. The counter-transference hook is the 'hot button' of the analyst that the client may find to get them hooked into the game.

There is also a danger of the game escalating as the analyst becomes revolted by the transferred object, projects back hate and seeks to punish the client in some way.

Holmqvist, R. and Armelius (1996) identify three perspectives on counter-transference:

  1. Therapist issue: The Freudian view that the therapist should be a blank screen onto which the patient projects fantasies, and counter-transference as distortion of the screen due to unresolved personal issues within the therapist.
  2. Client issue: A response by the therapist to the client's relational style or inner life (which provides useful clues).
  3. Both: There is a shared reality, perhaps as a development of the relationship between the therapist and the client.

Subsequent research showed all three as real alternatives, though the most important factor was the first.

See also

Klein, Transference, Projection and Introjection, Games

 

Holmqvist, R. and Armelius, B-. (1996). Sources of therapists' countertransference feelings, Psychotherapy research. Official Journal of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, (6), 70-78

 

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