The Art of Transference and Countertransference in Psychotherapy
The Art of Transference - When Feelings go Awry
Transference and countertransference are merely phenomena otherwise known as a natural occurrence or an observable fact. These phenomena are closely related to the defense mechanism, known as projection.
Projection, on the other hand, is somewhat different. In projection, you take an unconscious ascription of a feeling, thought, or impulse especially ones that are considered undesirable in nature and you outwardly project it onto someone else. As if to say, it’s not mine it’s yours.(NOTE: My experience of projection is depicted in the poem, Good Byes.)
My knowledge of these phenomena is based from my own personal experiences in psychotherapy within the confines of the therapeutic relationships in which I engaged. I will draw from these experiences, hopefully providing you with a visual of a first hand account of what it is actually like to experience these phenomena
What is Transference?
Getting back to defining transference; transference is a feeling from past interactions with other relationships that you transfer into your current relationships. Transference refers to the feelings a client may have towards the therapist.
Countertransference, on the other hand, is just the opposite. Countertransference are feelings the therapist may have towards the client. Feelings the therapist has had from past interactions with others are transferred to the current relationship with his client.
Either way transference is a natural occurrence that happens between client and therapist throughout the course of a therapeutic relationship. Transference of feelings, like all feelings are neither good nor bad, they are what they are. They are simply feelings; very real feelings! As I denoted in one of my previously published poems, Feelings are feelings there’s no right or wrong, like lyrics and limericks an unfolding song
My Personal Recollections
The story begins....
I had been seeing a male therapist named Paul, for several years. Although, we had developed a very trusting therapeutic relationship there were many struggles and obstacles in this relationship that I had to overcome. I will only touch upon a few of them that are relative to understanding my experience of transference.
The first and foremost issue was my fear of men. "So why, pray tell, would she choose to see a male therapist?” you might be asking yourself. Trust me, so too was I. In fact, it seemed absolutely absurd.
Paul came very highly recommended from a reputable source. I was desperate at the time, not knowing where to turn; I found myself dialing his number. Making the initial call to his office was one of the hardest things I had ever done. For up until this point I had never needed help from anyone else.
Another predominant obstacle that I had too overcome was on an unconscious level, unbeknownst to me Paul resembled my father, (the very same person who abused me) in a way that only the unconscious mind could recognize.
So along with the ordinary struggle of resistance, fear and the normal transference that one might expect to encounter during the course of a therapeutic relationship. There was an additional, much more intense and pervasive obstacle that I faced each and every week.
Every time I was in the presence of Paul my symptoms would exacerbate, many times triggering a flashback. I would become paralyzed with fear. I could not speak. I would totally dissociate from the present
Through many associations and triggers he would become my father and it was extremely hard to differentiate between the past and the present moment.
Upon leaving one of those very intense sessions I immediately picked up a pen and a piece of paper and began to write. The poem titled,
"Take Back the Control" was written as a result of one of those experiences.
This poem clearly depicts being triggered by silence, experiencing a flashback while simultaneously transferring my feelings of the past onto my therapist
"Take Back the Control"
Your silence sends shivers up my spine,and throws me back till I was nine.I struggle for control, I can-not find; the adult in me is left behind.
The defenseless child becomes so real; resigned to the pain that she now feels.Confused and bewildered, she silently pleas, "Can’t you see, that you’re hurt-ing me?”
Then comes a shift from past to present;you become him, inflicting the torment.I want to scream and shout in your face! “Please rescue me, from this painstaking place.”
"TAKE BACK THE CONTROL,I don’t know what to do. The seeds that were planted never grew. You annihilated my freedom and ravished my soul; and now you expect me to take control."
After the struggle and amongst the pain;I felt as though I was totally deranged.In my mind I kept trying to arrange; something des-par-ately needed to change.
I felt like a discarded amputee: struggling to feel what I could not see.
And then out of nowhere, the serenity prayer came.I knew I must accept the script with my name.
Copyright © Sage Williams 1999
All rights reserved.
Transference and countertransference may exist in other relationships as well. It’s just more common to hear it referred to as, existing in a therapeutic relationship. In a therapeutic relationship there is an over all advantage for the client to learn from their experience; achieve personal growth and heal.
That is based on the fact that this is a healthy and safe therapeutic relationship. I personally have experienced both healthy and unhealthy therapeutic relationships.
I have been on the side of countertransference, with a therapist that never worked through her own issues and ended up transferring them unto me. It was an extremely confusing time. It was like being abused all over again. I was going to therapy to get better and felt as though I was sinking deeper and deeper after each visit.
A therapist, like a parent is supposed to be someone you can look up to, trust and learn from. Luckily I had many good years of therapy behind me before I encountered this relationship.
Even then it was extremely difficult to work through and get out of. It took its toll and I ended up in a psychiatric facility for a short period of time to literally get my feet back on the ground again.
Sometime during the course of my therapy, my husband,Tom and I entered into marriage counseling with a counselor named Ben.
Due to the nature of my issues relating to sexual abuse and my fear of men; I soon found myself overwhelmed and feeling trapped. Having three men in my life, two of which were representing the same person was more than I could handle at that time.
Talk about transference, this was transference running amok. Something had to give. To lessen the confusion and to maintain my sanity, I made a decision to leave my therapist, Paul.
The decision to leave Paul was a very difficult and painful decision. I had very strong and favorable feelings towards Paul. He had taught me so much and had always been there for me with support and loving guidance.
I can’t help to know, how you must feel; to be there for someone on the same Ferris Wheel.
Supporting them, each step of the way; encouraging them when there skies gloomy gray.
Then comes the day, they’ve become strong.They need you no more, dismiss you you’re gone.
You’re left wondering, “What went wrong?”Standing alone, singing the same old song.
I’ve never had pleasure to be on this side;my pleasure is sadness, so deep and so wide.
I can’t help to see that I haven’t been fair; to know how it feels with an abandoned chair.
I’m not feeling guilty, please don’t read me wrong.I know where I’m at and am feeling quite strong.Now that there’s distance,
I can clearly see.How important! “Good-bye,” are meant to be.
Copyright © 1990 Sage Williams
All rights reserved.
Hence in my panicky state of mind and seeing no other way out; I decided I would find a female therapist to continue dealing with my abuse issues; thinking that this would free up some of the confusion and fear, allowing me to continue on with the marriage counseling with my husband, Tom and our counselor Ben.
I never gave it any thought as to how I would feel or what I might encounter after leaving the therapeutic relationship with Paul. At that time I just needed to feel safe and needed to know that there was a way out
This was the first relationship that I had ever left on my own accord. This in itself was a huge step for me.
Several days later Tom and I were traveling in the car. I became aware of a sinking feeling and was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness. It seemed to come out of nowhere. Thoughts and feelings relating to leaving my therapist began to surface and were consuming me.
I picked up a pen and a piece of paper and began to write.
As with all feelings what lies on the surface is usually only the tip of the iceberg; a powerful triggering force, creating a chain reaction like cascading domino's to what lies beneath the surface.
My losses ran deep, very, very deep; the feelings emerged from the depths below and were unbearable. I began to write; these feelings were expressed in a poem. The title of the poem was “Good Byes.”
Several months later I reflected on this poem
and realized two things.
1. It was apparent that I had never learned how to deal with a loss.
2. Rereading the poem I realized that I had projected my undesirable feelings of loss onto my therapist.
By the way, for the record, the second therapist was basically chosen at random, an eanie, meanie, miney mo pick from the yellow pages.
Dear readers and fellow hubber,
if there is one thing of value that I wish you to take from my experience it would be that you go that extra mile in choosing the right therapist for you. Aside from a normal credential check you may wish to have a word with your perspective therapist on the topic of transference.
The moral to this story, take heed from a reputable source or your may encounter an experience that may be contra indicative to the experience in which you had in mind.
Article(C)2010 Sage Williams. All rights reserved.
The copyright to this article is owned by Sage Williams. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing. (feel free, however, to copy and paste the following link to the article here on HubPages.)
More Articles by Sage Williams
- Understanding the Psychological Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse
As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I learned a creative way to remove myself from experiencing something to cruel for any child to bear. As a result there were many psychological effects and problems that remained. One of the basic losses was semantic knowledge and routine skills, like reading and writing or better off known as cognitive dissonance.
- Blessings in Disguise are Gifts from the Soul
Underneath it all I have come to realize that we are all spiritual beings. In the middle of all the chaos, I learned to be aware of my senses. I learned to not only hear but to listen to what my spirit was saying to me. I learned to trust and to follow. I learned a way out. Delicately intricate, they were unique gifts; like threads of gold, interwoven through a tapestry of the heart. Unique gifts that will be cherished forever, as blessings in disguise or what I refer to as, “Gifts from the soul.” Sage Williams
- An Einstein Theory as it Relates to Survivor Dissociation
The disconnection or lack of connection which I experienced as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse was a severance between my memories, thoughts and feelings; as well as my mind and body. The article explores and compares the commonalities between Einstein’s optical delusion of consciousness quote and Dissociation as it relates to trauma. They both have the power of disconnecting one’s being from reality. This article also has original artwork and poem incorporated into it which gives the reader a visual experience to understanding the meaning of dissociation.
Poetry by Sage Williams
Your Comments & Ratings are Greatly Appreciated!
If you like this article please feel free to rate it up by clicking on the green button below. You may also comment below and share with others.
Your expressions of 'Gratitude' are heartfelt. ~ Thank you!
More by this Author
There are many important steps to consider in creating a hummingbird habitat that will attract hummingbirds into your life. First and foremost is to plant lots of brightly colored flowers containing nectar, especially...
Located on Discovery Island in the heart of Walt Disney World is Disneys fourth theme park, known as Animal Kingdom. The theme of Animal Kingdom was based upon the inspiration of Humankinds enduring love for animals.
As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I learned a creative way to remove myself from experiencing something to cruel for any child to bear. As a result there were many psychological effects and problems that remained....