What is countertransference?

What is countertransference?

In psychoanalytic theory, when the therapist projects his unresolved conflicts onto the visitor, countertransference occurs. This may be a response to what the customer found.

Although many people now believe that this is inevitable, if not managed properly, countertransference can cause damage. However, with proper monitoring, some studies have shown that countertransference can play a productive role in therapeutic relationships.

Empathy and counter-transference

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines countertransference as a response to a visitor or a visitor’s empathy. This is when the client projects his conflict onto the therapist.

Empathy is a normal part of psychodynamic therapy. However, it is the job of the therapist to identify countertransferences and take the necessary steps to remain neutral.

Four types of countertransference

There are four manifestations of countertransference. Three of them may damage the therapeutic relationship.

  • Subjective: The unsolved problems of the therapist themselves are the cause. If it is not detected, it may be harmful.
  • Goal: The therapist’s response to the client’s maladaptive behavior is the cause. This can benefit the treatment process.
  • Positive: The therapist is over-supporting, trying too hard to make friends with clients, and revealing too much. This will destroy the therapeutic relationship.
  • Negativity: The therapist counters uncomfortable feelings in a negative way, including excessive criticism and punishment or rejection of the client.
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Countertransference is especially common among novice therapists, so supervisors will pay close attention to them and help them improve their self-awareness. The mental health community supports them by urging experienced clinicians to seek peer review and supervisory guidance as needed. The goal is not to completely eliminate countertransference, but to make effective use of these feelings.

Warning signs of anti-diversion

How does the therapist know that they are experiencing countertransference? If you are a client, how do you know if your therapist is showing such signs? If you are concerned about countertransference in the therapeutic relationship, please heed these warning signs.

In adult therapy

In general, pay attention to whether the therapist has inappropriate emotional reactions to the client. This might look like:

  • Unreasonable disgust towards customers or overly positive feelings towards customers
  • Cases that became too emotional and focused on the customer between sessions
  • Fear of treatment or feeling uncomfortable during treatment

In the treatment of children

Warning signs representing therapists include:

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  • The fantasy of saving children from their situation
  • Ignore the child’s abnormal behavior
  • Encourage children to act

This is an example of what countertransference might look like: When therapists feel protective to clients, they become worried. In discussions with colleagues, they realized that the visitors reminded them of their sister, which led to counter-transference.

Impact on treatment

Although it was originally a psychoanalytic concept, countertransference has been adopted and used in other forms of treatment today. Although it is important for your therapist to prevent feelings of countertransference to you, countertransference has also been found to be beneficial.

In a systematic review of 25 counter-transference studies, researchers found that it was related to positive counter-transference, such as feeling close to customers, and positive results, including symptom improvement and good treatment relationships.

In addition, the 2018 meta-analysis was published in Psychotherapy The impact of countertransference on treatment was examined and the potential negative effects and beneficial results when it was managed properly were observed.

what to do

If you think your therapist is experiencing countertransference, you can ask them at the appropriate time. Your therapist should be able to accept your concerns. If you feel uncomfortable and this countertransference prevents effective treatment, it may be time to turn to a new therapist.

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The therapist can also take steps to manage countertransference. The 2018 meta-analysis recommended that therapists monitor themselves closely and resolve their conflicts through personal psychotherapy, meditation, and self-care. They may also consider clinical supervision.

History of countertransference

Sigmund Freud first described countertransference in 1910. The attitude of this concept changes over time. Freud first defined it as a response to empathy from a client and was considered to be largely harmful to treatment.

However, this thinking changed around the 1950s, when countertransference began to be seen as possibly positive. The definition of countertransference has also been expanded to include any response of the therapist to the client.

Very good sentence

Countertransference is common and not always a bad thing. If you think this may affect your therapeutic relationship, please feel able to ask your therapist. If that conversation made you feel uneasy, that’s understandable. But this may mean it’s time to move on and find a therapist that is more suitable for you.


What is countertransference?
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