ABSTRACT

Introduction Countertransference, broadly defined, refers to therapists’ personal feelings and reactions to clients. Historically, psychoanalytic writers interpreting the works of Freud believed it was the analyst’s responsibility to avoid countertransference to prevent interference with the therapeutic process. To be emotionally detached, hence objective, was the ideal therapeutic stance. For example, in 1912 Freud stated:

I cannot recommend my colleagues emphatically enough to take as a model in psychoanalytic treatment the surgeon who puts aside all his feelings, including that of human sympathy, and concentrate his mind on one single purpose, that of performing the operation as skillfully as possible. (Freud, 1912/1963, p. 121)

More recently, many contemporary analysts and psychotherapists have taken the position that attempting to eradicate the human element is by no means the best way to conduct psychotherapy. A number of authors,

including Maroda (2004), Orange, Atwood, and Stolorow (1997), and Aron (1996), advocated thoughtfully navigating the treatment relationship and embracing the fact that the therapist is human, and therefore will have emotional reactions to each therapeutic encounter. From this perspective, since countertransference is inevitably part of treatment, the therapist’s job is not to avoid personal reactions but to “use” them in a manner that will be beneficial to the therapeutic process.