Transference and Counter-transference during psychotherapy
Transference is an unconscious process between client and therapist and refers to a redirection of a patient's feelings for their significant others, onto the therapist in a therapeutic situation. It can manifest itself in a range of feelings towards the therapist, anger, resentment, dependence, mistrust and love. It is the recognition and discussion between the patient and the therapist, the exploration of these feelings and how they relate to interrelations and unconscious motivations such as desires, or fears, that enables some resolution.
Counter transference is the therapist's feelings toward a patient, or more generally, the emotional entanglement with that exists with the patient. Most psychodynamic approaches are centered on the concept that some maladaptive functioning is in play, and that this maladaption is, at least in part, unconscious and has developed early in life.
It is this awareness of and understanding of, counter-transferencial feelings that arises in the therapist, along with the transference that also gives the therapist valuable insight into what the patient is attempting to elicit and forms the basis of psychodynamic work.
Intersubjectivity is a condition between subjectivity and objectivity, one in which a phenomenon is personally experienced (subjectively), but by more than one person. It is a shared, often unconscious, experience valuable in the psychoanalytic exchange. The creation of a common, shared world, instead of the isolation of ones own. This creates a space between two equivalent partners where the interrelations between them can form another ‘real world’. It is the key area of empathy and creates common ground for the important relationship between analysist and analysand, ultimately moving to more objectivity.
This shared interest of communication is of interest to the intersubjective school that is inspired by research into the non-verbal communication of infants and children with adults, enquiring how relational issues are communicated at a very fast pace in a non-verbal fashion.
Intersubjectivity in therapy helps in the constitution of objectivity: in the experience of the world as available not only to oneself, but also to the Other, there is a bridge between the personal and the shared, the self and the Others.
“Transitional space is that space of experiencing, between the inner and outer worlds, and contributed to by both, in which primary creativity (illusion) exists and can develop”.
"Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena," Winnicott, 1951
The word ‘transition’, in a therapeutic sense, was coined by Winnicott as an intermediate developmental phase between our psychic and external reality. He used the term ‘transitional space’ to describe, primarily, the space that is experienced between analyst and analysand, contributed to by both, in which primary creativity (illusion) exists and can develop (Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena," Winnicott, 1951). In this ‘transitional space’ we can find a symbol of the ‘transitional object’.
When the infant begins to separate the ‘me’ from the ‘not-me’, when the realisation that the infants own wishes (to create the objects of his own desires, that used to bring such a sense of satisfaction), involves someone else whom is separate from him, ushers with it, a sense that the child has lost something.
This separation, the first feeling of loss, provokes anxiety and it is during this move from dependence to a stage of relative independence, that can be made easier by a transitional object. A transitional object or a symbol of such that represents one, can also be important in this process as often this is the first ‘not me’ possession that really belongs to the child. The child that is eventually able to make a distinction between ‘me’ and ‘not-me’ and in doing so, keep the inside and outside apart, yet still interrelated.
It is this quality of cultural life, as occupying a space between subjective and objective, that I find particularly appealing in Winnicott's thinking. Both in the production of art and of aesthetic appreciation, there is a sense that the making and interaction with illusion and symbols, that develop from this place of primary creativity.
The photograph, therefore, could be seen as this transitional object in the role of image production that is yearned for by the artist, once again.
The UKCP describes Psychodynamic psychotherapy as:-
Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a term that encompasses therapy of an analytical nature; essentially it is a form of depth psychology that focuses on the unconscious and past experiences, to determine current behaviour. Generally psychodynamic psychotherapists adhere to the theories and teaching of Freud and his followers. But psychodynamic therapy also draws upon techniques from a variety of sources, including the ideas of various other luminaries including Jung and Adler.
The client is encouraged to talk about childhood relationships with parents and other significant people, the primary focus being to reveal the unconscious content of a client's psyche in an effort to alleviate psychic tension. The therapist endeavors to keep his own personality out of the picture, in essence becoming a blank canvas onto which the client can transfer and project deep feelings about themselves, parents and other significant players in their life. The therapist remains focused on the dynamics between the client and the therapist.
Psychodynamic therapy tends to be less intensive and briefer than psychoanalysis, and also relies more on the interpersonal relationship between client and therapist than do other forms of depth psychology. It is a focus that has been used in individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, family therapy, and to understand and work with institutional and organisational contexts.
Although psychodynamic psychotherapy can take many forms, trust in insight as critically important for success in therapy.
▪ An emphasis on the centrality of intrapsychic and unconscious conflicts, and their relation to development.
▪ Seeing defenses as developing in internal psychic structures in order to avoid unpleasant consequences of conflict.
▪ A belief that psychopathology develops especially from early childhood experiences.
▪ A view that internal representations of experiences are organized around interpersonal relations.
▪ A conviction that life issues and dynamics will re-emerge in the context of the client-therapist relationship as transference and counter-transference.
▪ Use of free association as a major method for exploration of internal conflicts and problems.
▪ Focusing on interpretations of transference, defense mechanisms, and current symptoms and the working through of these present problems.