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Counter-Transference

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Updated May 05, 2009

Definition:

In psychoanalytic theory, counter-transference occurs when the therapist begins to project his or her own unresolved conflicts onto the client. While transference of the client’s conflicts onto the therapist is considered a healthy and normal part of psychodynamic therapy, the therapist’s job is to remain neutral. At one time, counter-transference was widely believed to contaminate the therapeutic relationship. Current thinking is more complex.

Although many now believe it to be inevitable, counter-transference can be damaging if not properly managed. With proper monitoring, however, some sources show that counter-transference can play an important role. Therapists are encouraged to pay close attention to their feelings of counter-transference, and to seek peer review and supervisory guidance as needed. Rather than eliminating counter-transference altogether, the goal is to use those feelings productively rather than harmfully.

Alternate Spellings: countertransference
Examples:
Mike became concerned when he developed protective feelings toward a female client. In discussions with a colleague, he realized that the client reminded him of his sister, leading to counter-transference of those feelings.

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