Interpretation of the Transference of Feelings in the Theory of Sigmund Freud

Transference was a word first used by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud to label the way patients ‘transfer’ feelings from significant persons in their early lives, onto their therapist. Transference refers to redirection of a patient’s feelings for a significant person to the therapist. Transference is can be manifested as anger, mis-trust, hatred, dependence. Or even erotic attraction towards a therapist or seeing the therapist as a God like. Non-disclosure by the therapist promotes transference; the patient naturally makes assumptions about the therapist including the therapist attitude toward the patient, life outside the office, and likes and dislikes.

These assumptions are based on the patient’s experiences and assumptions with, other important relationships in their life, such as childhood relations with parents and other authority figures. In this way the patient’s early relationship dynamics are re-created in the therapy office. Patients often learn that some of their assumptions about others, and themselves, may not be accurate do not serve them well. This insight that can lead to long lasting psychological change. During psychoanalysis Freud realized that transference is universal, and not only happens with the patient but could occur in the therapist as well. Countertransference is the opposite of transference. Countertransference can be defined as redirection of a therapist’s feelings toward a patient, and a therapist’s emotional entanglement with a patient. A therapist’s attunement to their own countertransference is nearly as important as understanding the patient’s transference. The therapist experiencing countertransference should address the feelings with introspect. By itself countertransference is not bad. Only when it is not recognized and attended to can it be detrimental to both the client and the therapist. Particularly when it is unexamined and unrecognized countertransference can indeed interfere with effective treatment.

This can occur even with positive countertransference, as when a therapist is so entertained by a patient’s jokes and or stories that the underlying issues may be ignored. Or when if a counselor is attracted to a patient it may be hard for the therapist to challenge the client because the therapist fears they will no longer be liked. More often, though, countertransference is problematic when it is negative. If a therapist feels annoyed, bored, or any other negative feelings in the presence of a particular patient. It is the therapist’s job to recognize these feelings and deal with them. If they aren’t addressed the client may notice the therapist feelings and this can cause a break in the therapeutic alliance. Occasionally a therapist must refer the patient to a colleague when the original therapist’s countertransference is unmanageable. When this has to happen proper termination must be done in order to help the client transition to the new therapist and remain hopeful of the therapy process.

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Interpretation of the Transference of Feelings in the Theory of Sigmund Freud. (2022, Nov 30). Retrieved July 21, 2024 , from

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