Transference and Countertransference in Psychotherapy

Transference and counter transference are natural and common occurences in therapy. The knowledgeable therapist uses his/her awareness of these parts of the therapy relationship to make the therapy process even more productive. If the therapist doesn’t know how to work in the transference much can be missed and the therapy may not be as successful. There is no reason to refer a client if either of these natural relational issues are occuring; there is nothing wrong happening.

Transference is an experience of the other person being “like” someone else in your life, and also, an unconscious transfering of attributes of the original known person onto the new relational person. When a client has positive transference with the therapist, the therapists seems to the client to be like a good parent figure who is probably going to be helpful to the client. Associated with this is sometimes an unrealistic hope of being entirely rescused without much effort on the client’s part, and this, because it isn’t true, usually becomes a disappointment that has to be contended with. A healthier positive transference is more of a openness to the words and caring of the therapist, which has a very positive affect. Positive transference allows the therapist deep access to the client and their unconscious, and in this way provides an opportunity for a very strong healing to occur.

Negative transference implies that the therapist seems as if they are going to be hurtful in some way, probably like a parent or parent figure already has been in the client’s life. Since people are always transfering what they learned in thier families onto others in their world ( not only onto their therapists) they often wind up making incorrect assumptions about other people. It is very useful to correct negative transferencial assumptions in the therapeutic relationship as this can then generalize to other people in the client’s life. At the same time, working through a negaitive transfence is also corrective of the client’s defensive posture toward the therapist,

Counter transference often arrises in the therapist when the client reminds the therapist of themselves or another significant person in their life. It is important that the therapist keeps this in their conscious awareness so that they continue to view the client accurately and do not start treating the client as if they were someone else. If the therapsit is not aware of thier own counter transference, the therapy can be a waste of time for client, or worse, it can be destructive.

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