Transference: Everything You Need to Know

A phenomenon known as transference occurs when a person seems to focus feelings or wants to be associated with a significant person in their life, such as a parent, onto someone who is not that person. When a patient expresses sentiments toward the therapist that seems to be based on the patient’s former feelings toward someone else, it is considered that the patient is exhibiting transference in the context of psychoanalysis and similar treatment.

What Is Transference?

The psychoanalytic work of Sigmund Freud in the 1890s gave rise to the idea of transference. Freud thought that one’s growth and personality as an adult were shaped by their experiences as children and internal tensions. Psychoanalysis aims to identify these unconscious conflicts, which may be to blame for the present emotional and behavioral patterns. One way to identify and address such tensions is via transference.

What is an example of transference?

When a patient’s mother treated her harshly when she was a kid, and the therapist comments that the patient interprets as being harsh, the patient may voice this and perhaps become combative. This remark may mean that she expressed to her therapist the same emotions she had for her mother. A patient’s reaction to a therapist can be similar to how she would react to a love interest or another person in her life.

Does transference happen outside of therapy?

Even though it is more thoroughly explored in certain types of treatment, psychologists believe that transference often happens in daily life. For instance, a woman can become unduly protective of a younger friend who reminds her of her little sister. When a boss resembles a parent, a young employee may have similar emotions to those he does for his father.

Is transference conscious or unconscious?

According to one theory, recurrence of emotional reactions to one person (such as a parent) in the setting of a different relationship happens unconsciously. A person may consciously recognize this pattern, however. Indeed, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic treatment aim to identify and attempt to comprehend the transference shown by a patient.

What’s the difference between transference and projection?

Someone who experiences transference is said to be “projecting” sentiments from previous relationships onto the therapist at the moment. But there is also the unique idea of projection, which refers to attributing one’s traits or emotions to another person and is also connected to Freud and psychoanalysis. In transference, one feels differently about a different individual in the present than they did in the past.

How Transference Works in Therapy

Although it has been challenging to test much of Freud’s framework experimentally, his theories helped to advance psychology, and some of his concepts, such as transference, still have use for therapists today. Transference is a helpful therapeutic technique, particularly in psychodynamic and psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

What are the different types of transference in therapy?

Both favorably and negatively skewed transference types may emerge in treatment. When a patient believes that the therapist has certain advantageous traits, this is known as “idealized transference” (such as wisdom). This transference could be advantageous for the therapist-patient relationship if the pleasant emotions are not overstated. Negative transference may be at play when a patient feels sentiments toward the therapist that seem to be based on experiences from prior relationships, such as distrust or hostility.

What is sexualized transference?

Sexualized transference is the term used to describe a patient’s experience of having romantic or sexual sentiments toward the therapist. The idea originated with Freud, who proposed that some patients fell in love with their therapist because of the setting of psychoanalysis rather than the therapist’s personal qualities. Later theorists distinguished between “erotic transference,” which might include dreams of sexual activity that a patient is aware are fake, and “eroticized transference,” a more intense and troubling pattern that may entail explicit sexual advances from a patient.

Is transference good in therapy?

Transference and how it is interpreted are often seen as therapeutic opportunities by therapists. A therapist might attempt to assist a patient in understanding and addressing patterns that can contribute to issues outside of treatment by drawing attention to relationship dynamics, such as a propensity to feel excessively angry or worried in certain encounters. Transference, however, may sometimes present a hazard to the therapeutic relationship that has to be controlled, such as when a patient exhibits antagonism against the therapist or overt sexual attraction.

How do therapists deal with transference?

When a therapist notices transference, it may be a chance to find an underlying issue that needs to be addressed and fixed. Patients who may not have been able to see the troubling trend beforehand could have something of an “aha moment” after hearing about the problem. But bringing up this issue is difficult since it can make the client uncomfortable or stop them from talking. When considering whether to point out transference, the therapist would probably consider their connection with the client, the degree of trust they have developed, and if the moment is appropriate.

What is countertransference?

The term “countertransference” describes a therapist’s responses to a patient, including their emotional outpourings in response to those of the patient. The therapist may feel certain things about the patient, such as aggravation, which may be partially connected to unrelated circumstances, such as the patient’s similarity to another (annoying) person. This is similar to when a patient seems to “transfer” sentiments about someone else to the therapist.

How do therapists deal with countertransference?

It might be helpful for therapists (and patients) to be aware of the phenomena and handle it if required. Directing feelings of attraction, anger or other emotions toward a patient can either bring insight or possibly undermine the relationship. If a therapist finds that their emotional reaction to a patient interferes with their capacity to deal with them objectively, they may make the necessary adjustments. A therapist may also conclude how other individuals would feel about a patient based on their observations of their sentiments toward the patient.

How is transference related to the concept of the “blank screen”?

Psychoanalytic treatment has long been seen to benefit from the concept of the therapist as a “blank screen” or “mirror”: to put it briefly, the therapist strives to maintain some degree of anonymity with the patient. In interactions with the therapist, especially via transference, which is thought to be more possible when a therapist withholds too much information about themselves, the goal is to enable portions of the patient’s unconscious to surface.

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