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Transference and Countertransference

Transference and Countertransference

Transference and countertransference are important ideas in the history of psychoanalytic therapies.
Freud coined these terms in order to explain certain behaviours that emerge therapy.

The term transference was presumed to be the unconscious process that explained why patients behaved in certain repetitive ways towards the therapist, that the therapist assumed came from the past rather than the present. Initially countertransference was seen as the therapist’s unconscious response to the patient’s transference and an impediment to therapy.

Unfortunately these terms came to be used and abused in a variety of ways that lost track of the fact that these were assumptions or speculative explanations about clinical phenomena. They were treated by many as if they were the clinical phenomena themselves and not an explanation of the phenomena.

Much has changed since the 1950s and these traditional psychoanalytic notions have been deconstructed and reconstructed many times.

This talk will focus on a more sophisticated explanations of the phenomena previously covered by transference and countertransference.

Current psychoanalytic thinking considers these phenomena as emerging within a mutually influencing intersubjective relational matrix where conscious and unconscious processes collide and the therapist task is to formulate a relevant understanding of why certain behaviours emerge when they do.

The Conversational Model of Psychotherapy offers an alternative understanding and explanation of the phenomena that were previously covered by transference and countertransference. From this perspective countertransference is just another name for the therapist’s transference. This talk will highlight the importance of the therapist’s assumptions in the clinical process.