From the transference to the counter-transference


In his text “Observations on Transference-Love” Freud did mention, briefly but clearly, how the therapist can be affected by the patient’s erotic transference. It is amazing as this text, written a hundred years ago is still so current in its essence. It has a special value because besides providing a detailed exposition on how the erotic transference is indeed working for the patient resistance, he also discusses what can happen to the therapist who is receiving this kind of transference-love; how the therapist can feel flattered, deceived, by taking it as a response to his own charm and then pulling away from his analytical function. Here he names the way the therapist can be affected as counter-transference and also discuss the abstinence rule not as a moral demand but as a technical psychoanalytical one, as the only way the treatment can succeed: neither suppressing the patient’s sexual feeling neither corresponding to it.

Although little did he speak about counter-transference, he had highlighted a very important reality about the analytical process that leads us to think about the importance of our own personal analysis regarding our ability to deal with the patient’s transference issues: “no analyst goes further than his/her own complexes and internal resistances allow.”

The understanding about the importance of the analyst counterpart in this dancing has increased at the same time that the analytical treatment has being more and more understood and described as a relationship.

The development of theories about counter-transference also has a relation with new therapeutic modalities which started to flourish later in the form of work with children and psychotics, who trigger more unconscious reactions from the analyst.

From the conceptual and theoretical point of view, different authors present varied and diverging understandings that can be grouped as such:

  • Everything from the analyst's personality can intervene in the treatment, or

  • Only the unconscious processes that the transference from the patient provokes in the analyst can do it.

For me it is a more operative and productive concept if I do understand the counter-transference as the reaction the therapist displays to one specific patient and how the therapist is affected in his unconscious level. This aspect can be part of the general information I gather from the case, for the bad and for the good. It helps me to understand the case and also to diagnose when I fall into a blind spot.

One more important thing to be said about those concepts is that they are not static aspects, but they concern the intra and inter psychic dynamical processes.


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