Transference / Countertransference Essay Samples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Nursing, Patient, Therapist, Emotions, Psychology, Sigmund Freud, Treatment, Therapy

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2021/01/10


The concept of transference and countertransference are areas of psychoanalysis, that helps to understand and evaluate the unconscious state of mind and feelings of the mainly the patients and in some scenarios the analysts themselves as well. The idea of transference was generated by Sigmund Freud, who believed that the major aim behind transference is to associate the current symptoms of the patient with his past experiences.
This is achieved through comprehensive analysis of their emotional reactions. This is related to the Freud’s idea of the transference neurosis where the relationships and experiences are the major factors that trigger the past emotions and feelings and make them reappear in the current situation.
This is then in turn directed towards the analysts to analyze and reach a conclusion. It has been stated that transference tends to convert the relationship of patient and analyst into an emotional bonding, which can then be connected and linked with patient’s first childhood proper fantasy which in turn creates past analysis for the analysts himself (Eugene, 2009).

Transference and Countertransference

The word transference was coined by Sigmund Freud for patients in the way how they transfer their feelings and emotions of the important occasions in their lives onto their therapist. The concept of psychoanalysis was designed to encourage the use of transference in therapy. The use of intentional non-disclosure of information from the patient is used by the therapist to promote and encourage transference.
The patients are then able to make assumptions regarding the therapist, personal life, his likes and dislikes, his life after work, etc. (Jan, 2009). These assumptions are based on patients personal experiences with significant relationships in his life such as the relationship with family members, parents, siblings, and friends.
This results in the creation of patient’s influential dynamics in therapist / analyst office environment that are integral for both patient and therapist to experience and observe. At this moment, the patients are able to analyze that their analysis and assumptions about others are inappropriate and or outmoded and is not deemed important. This can lead to long-term psychological change within them (Jan, 2009).
This led to the notion that the concept of transference is a universal phenomenon, and it can not only happen to the patient but in fact with the analyst as well. Hence, Sigmund Freud stated that countertransference exists which could interfere with the provision of successful treatment. Freud stated that analysts or therapists who experienced countertransference must try to get rid of these emotions and feelings and try to analyze himself as well.
The psychoanalysts since 1950s had a simpler view of countertransference. The countertransference is no more viewed as hindering the successful treatment phase, in fact, it is deemed important and a way to provide significant patient’s data to a therapist. This way it serves as an important instrument in social interaction and provides a personal barometer where an individual is able to relate to the past experiences of others, indulge and relate to it.
For example, a therapist who feels annoyed with a patient for no reason may eventually be able to identify restrained cataleptic provocations by the patients that are irritating and successfully repel others away from the patient (Barry, 2015). With the help of countertransference, the therapist is able to identify multiple sources of his feelings which are generally evoked during the patient-therapist session.
These may be helpful in therapist session, especially when the cause of such feelings is not identified immediately. These emotions can be stirred up by some characteristics of the patient, for example, the way he speaks may resemble someone closer to a therapist or his facial features, etc. This calls for a therapy for a therapist himself.
This helps in analyzing to identify the countertransference emotions that are evoked by the patients or the therapist external environment. In such a scenario, Freud advised that therapists must seek therapy themselves if they face countertransference themselves (Murphy, 2013).

Transference/Countertransference as an obstacle to treatment

Even though a lot of importance is given to the concept of transference, it can be said that transference and countertransference do become an obstacle to treatment. According to Sigmund Freud that resistances in therapy sessions are related to every action that patient takes which obstructs or hinders the progress of treatment and analysis and hence, it also hinders the system of having access to unconscious state of mind.
Also, this resistance is linked with free involvement, which is the most fundamental part of psychoanalysis. The concept of free involvement / association was presented by Freud, which allowed the patient to talk without having any fear of criticism or input in order to unearth and identify his issues.
In addition, according to Freud resistance also occurs when the free association of the patient ceases to exist and the transference resistance takes hold that makes the patient hopeless, and he ignores the devotion and commitment of his therapist (Gordon, 1997).
According to Freud, when the unconscious state of mind of the patient is discovered, which the patient actually want to act upon, it helps a therapist to interpret the patient’s unconscious state of mind and analyze it in context to a patient’s life.
This is the struggle between patient and therapist which is significantly transference and in order to cure the patient, it is integral that the therapist must win this struggle. Even though transference, does make situations complicated for a therapist, it also aids in uncovering the unconscious state of mind and curing the patient’s illness (Kring, 2010).
With the resistance that occurs between patient and therapist, it is also claimed by Freud that clear difference must be made between negative and positive transference. Additionally, it is also stated that any negative transference that results in hostile emotions towards the therapist can simultaneously be generated with positive transference.
This would also mean that the patient can use some part of his negative transference to support the positive transference, for example, erotic transference towards a therapist. Both these transference – negative and positive can be eliminated by a therapist if he makes them consciously obvious to the patient (Kring, 2010).
The implementation of transference in the therapeutic interventions may become an obstacle to treatment. If a therapist is able to identify that the patient’s response is the result of transference, the patient may generate certain resistance towards the therapy and even if this resistance is not generated it can result in therapist provoked distraction that is of most importance to the patient.
In other words, it can be said that it is an intervention that is created in response to the transference which may not be very effectual even when a therapist is able to identify that transference has occurred. There is a challenge even when the transference is identified accurately that it may interfere with therapist own psychic and confuse or tend to isolate the patient (Laine, 2007).
These issues result in difficulties where the therapists tend to ignore transference and has dealt with various programmatic therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (Prasko, 2010). Even then, transference can create opportunities where an immediate intervention is possible due to live intervention of a therapist with the patient.
Usually, various clients enter into therapy sessions as they want to understand and manipulate relationships with other people. Hence, its completely a waste to overlook the relationship that exists between the therapist and is the most live experience present.
It is also imperative that therapists also seek significant frameworks that are best able to manage the risks without having to disregard the opportunities that are present. There are two main strategies that can be implemented- the transference focus and the careful use of transference (Laine, 2007).
Like transference, countertransference can also lead to obstacles in treatment as the therapists are also vulnerable to respond the same affection and love that is expressed by the patients towards them. The major obstacle can occur in the treatment process when therapist falls in love with his patient.
It is crucial that a therapist must understand that any feelings of love that are communicated by the patients towards him are just due to transference, and it has nothing to do with the response of the therapist.
It is of the view that once the therapists are able to understand that emotions and feelings of love that are demonstrated by their patients are not directed towards therapist, but some primary object or feeling that gets associated with the therapist that is similar to the patient’s past experience, therapist is better able to handle his patient in a more professional manner with little passion and association with the patient (Murphy, 2013).
Hence, Freud stated that it is problems and concerns with countertransference that any love or affectionate feelings with the client are serious warning signs for the therapist and it is imperative that he must look for personal analysis.
Even though Freud advised all the therapists that any feelings of affection or love towards the patient must be disregarded by therapists, there are many therapists that regard these emotions and feelings as an integral source of information that becomes important for therapy.
It is suggested that any feelings towards the client are a result of patient transference, it is important to give careful attention to these feelings, these would inform the therapist about their nature of therapist (Murphy, 2013).

Transference/Countertransference as an aid to treatment

Previously, transference and countertransference were treated as phenomena that were unrequired in psychological treatment. Even though Freud also stated that the therapist must be aware of his transference and relationship with the patient, he later on claimed that transference and countertransference hold significant potential and provides lots of value for therapy sessions (Neil, 2015).
It is recommended that in order to make the treatment successful the therapist must turn on his unconscious mode towards the unconscious transmission of his patients, which helps in developing the free association between the two parties.
There has been significant research done that transformed the use of transference and countertransference and developed these as an additional factors in understanding the patient’s situation and unconscious state of mind. It is now considered that with transference the patient is able to display his emotions and express his past experiences in an easier manner which considerably helps a therapist to relate to the situation and reach an appropriate conclusion for the therapy sessions.
Once countertransference is developed, the feelings, emotions, impulses of therapists are triggered during the treatment session. This can result in different ways such as through therapeutic instrument, a way through which a patient can experience live situation that is relatively different from what he has been through in the past and any obstacle (Robert, 2011).
There has been two types of countertransference reactions that have been stated by psychoanalysts – the concordant countertransference where a therapist is able to takeover some part of the patient’s past experience, for example resembling someone, speaking like someone, superego, self and id.
The second type of countertransference is known as complementary countertransference when the therapist is able to take the role of patient’s object that result in transference within the patient. It has been suggested that countertransference becomes effective as the physician is able to develop feelings towards his patient (Steven, 2010).
In this way, he is better able to understand the patient’s feelings towards him which helps in further understanding of his past. In order to achieve this crucial area, it is integral that the therapist is able to control his own feelings instead of falling for patient’s feelings and losing the purpose of his therapy sessions.
If therapists discharge himself in front of his patient, it would require that he himself takes a therapy session to understand his feelings and emotions of countertransference (Steven, 2010).
If any form of erotic transference occurs it can cause some form of countertransference in the therapist as well, but he should understand that this countertransference must aid in the treatment and should be taken as an important point to understand and relate to the feelings of his patient.
A therapist must be able to take control over his own sexual desires and tolerate his sexual desires that make him attracted towards the patients. He can mentally follow the erotic transference that is created by the patient, but must maintain full control over his emotions to stay in control of therapy sessions.
This will help a therapist to understand the aspects of rejection that are present in patient’s past experience and will further aid in treatment. Once a therapist, is fully able to explore his own mind and feelings according to the mind and emotions of his patients, he will be better able to analyze the development of transference and thus avoid countertransference in which he expresses his own desires and feelings towards his patient (Ruth, 2004).


The concept of transference and countertransference are areas of psychoanalysis; that helps to understand and evaluate the unconscious state of mind and feelings of the mainly the patients and in some scenarios the analysts themselves as well.
The idea of transference was generated by Sigmund Freud, who believed that the major aim behind transference is to associate the current symptoms of the patient with his past experiences. The transference and countertransference can create both obstacle and aid in treatment. It is important that the therapist must be able to control his feelings and emotions in relation to the patient, so he is able to counteract both negative and positive transference.


Barry Stern (2015) Transference-Focused Psychotherapy (TFP), Personality Disorder Institute,
Eugene H. Kim and Sheila Hafter Gray (2009). Challenges Presenting in Transference and Countertransference in the Psychodynamic Psychotherapy of a Military Service Member. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry: Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 421-437.
Gordon, R.M.(1997). “Handling Transference and Countertransference Issues with the Difficult Patient” The Pennsylvania Psychologist Quarterly.
Jan Weiner (2009) The Therapeutic Relationship: Transference, Countertransference, and the Making of Meaning, Texas A&M University Press.
Kring, A. M., Johnson, S. L., Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2010). Abnormal psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Laine, A. (2007). On the edge: The psychoanalyst’s transference, The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 88 (5), 1171–1183.
Murphy, S. (2013). Attending to Countertransference. Retrieved from
Neil Altman (Mar 2015) Psychoanalysis in an Age of Accelerating Cultural Change: Spiritual Globalization, Routledge.
Prasko J1, Diveky T, Grambal (2010) Transference and countertransference in cognitive behavioral therapy, Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub, 154(3):189-97.
Robert King (2011) Transference and countertransference: Opportunities and risks as two technical constructs migrate beyond their psychoanalytic homeland, Psychotherapy In Australia, Vol 17 No 4.
Ruth M. Lijtmaer (2004). The Place of Erotic Transference and Countertransference in Clinical Practice. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry: Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 483-498.
Steven (2010) Countertransference, an overview, Psychology Today,

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