Transference and Countertransference

In the old days, the helping profession was trained to think that countertransference was unhealthy. We now know that not only is it healthy, it is expected. Chapter 2 introduces you to the two terms. In this postings, share with your classmates a situation in which you yourself had transference (how you felt toward a professional that was based on prior experiences) and countertransference (how you felt toward a client or someone you were helping). In your posting, become a little introspective and share the feeling and where you think the feeling came from and how you acted on it.

Doctor-patient relationships are a complex issue. A major component of treatment is the connection between a doctor and a client. For example, a patient with a back pain expects that the physician is well qualified to examine the issue and give appropriate medication. In the same manner, the doctor expects that the patient will comply with the treatment guidelines like taking the recommended medication. In such a case, the relationship is direct, and emotions are not likely to be elicited (Hughes & Kerr, 2000). However, as the needs of the patient become complicated, the doctor-patient relationship is liable to be affected by the wishes of either or both of them. Such interferences to the relationships are described as either transference or countertransference.

 In the social work and psychotherapy perspective, transference is the redirection of a client’s emotions to the therapist or counselor (Hughes & Kerr, 2000). Transference manifests as an emotional fascination to the counselor that can also be expressed in other forms such as fury, hatred, mistrust, or even perceiving the counselor as an immortal being (ClinPsy, 2011). As such, transference can assume positive, negative, or sexual emotions towards the therapist. Transference is an unconscious process where the patient innocently develops a desired aspect of a formerly wished-for association or relationship towards the therapist. On the other hand, countertransference is the redirection of a physician’s emotions towards a client or a doctor’s emotional involvement with a client (Hughes & Kerr, 2000). A therapist’s identification of his countertransference is as important as his acceptance of the transference (ClinPsy, 2011). Besides helping the therapist to control his emotions in the therapeutic bond, the knowledge also helps the therapist to understand what the kind of emotions or relationship the patient is trying to derive from them.

There are several types of transference, and I have in the past experienced maternal transference tendencies towards a therapist. Maternal transference occurs when one views another person, in this case, a therapist, as a mother figure. Having been separated from my mother at a young age, I grew up admiring and coveting my friends in school, who always boasted how loving and wonderful their mothers were. As a teenager in high school, I got involved in leading a riot against the school administration. Consequently, I was suspended for a month and was as well expected to attend counseling from the school therapist. The therapist was a woman aged about forty and her hair and smile reminded me of my mother. After a few therapy sessions, I had developed a deep affection for her, given that she at times offered me small presents, something I had previously not experienced from an older woman. Consequently, it became effortless for me to open up to her about my problems and cause of rebellion. I became very close to her and because I was a teenager who was starting to experiment with opposite gender relationships, looked up to her to offer guidance and advice just like I would have done with my mother had she been around. Apparently, I had developed transference towards the therapist….

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