Describe the Transference/Counter-Transference Element of the Therapeutic Relationship

2100 words 9 pages
Describe the transference/counter-transference element of the therapeutic relationship

“We see things not as they are but as we are”
Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804)

The transference/counter-transference concept is considered an essential part of the analytical process and plays a fundamental part in creating therapeutic change. Clarkson (2003) has identified transference and counter-transference as one of the 5 strands in her model of the therapeutic relationship. Clarkson (2003) defines the transference/counter-transference relationship as the ‘experience of distortion of the working alliance by wishes and fears and experiences from the past transferred onto or into the therapeutic partnership’. This essay will examine the development
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A few years after Freud discovered transference he became aware that the therapist encountered similar feelings or experiences towards the client – he termed this counter-transference. Initially it was seen as an obstacle as the therapist was meant to represent the objective observer. However whilst it was believed that counter-transference could be detrimental to therapy it slowly dawned that the process taught the therapist something about the client’s problem about which they had no other means of knowing (Kahn, M., 1997). An understanding of counter-transference forms part of the foundation of intersubjective theory.

As far back as 1926 Helene Deutsch one of Freud’s protégés described the analyst as being able to experience the object by means of identification and warned that the utilisation and mastery of counter-transference were some of the most important duties of the therapist (Rosenberg, V., 2006). Heimann (cited in Casement, P., 1991) emphasises the therapist’s emotional response to the client provides a fundamental tool to therapeutic work as allows access to the client’s unconscious. Counter-transference has been described as the totality of the therapist’s response to a client including their unconscious participation. Much of the interaction between client and therapist originates in the unconscious of both parties


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