IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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COUNTERTRANSFERENCE Tri-Regional Entry Inter-Regional Editorial Board: Anna Ursula Dreher (Europe), Adrian Grinspon (Latin America), and Adrienne Harris (North America) Coordinating Co-Chair: Eva D. Papiasvili (North America)


Countertransference is one of the most transformed and transforming concepts in psychoanalysis. It needs to be approached historically, theoretically, empirically and experientially. Today, the concept denotes quite a range of the analyst’s feelings (conscious and unconscious), thoughts and attitudes towards the patient in the analytic situation. In the broadest sense it can refer to the totality of feelings, attitudes and thoughts a therapist may have about or towards patients. Most narrowly, countertransference can refer to quite specific, mostly unconscious responses to the transference of the patients—literally counter to the patient’s transference. As one of the most complex and complexly evolving concepts in psychoanalysis, with many meanings across the spectrum of international orientations today, it is generally acknowledged that the experience of countertransference has both potential benefits and dangers. As a necessary part of the transference-countertransference matrix, it reflects a vital, if divergently conceptualized, interactive dimension of psychoanalysis. Extrapolating and expanding on contemporary European and North American psychoanalytic dictionaries (Auchincloss, 2012; Skelton, 2006), as a clinical phenomenon, arising out of multiple sources in the analytic situation, being mediated by various conceptualized processes and mechanisms within and between the patient and the analyst, the phenomenology of the experience of countertransference can include: * A conscious feeling or idea in the analyst in response to the patient’s material. * An unconscious feeling or association that the analyst can retrieve or (re) construct with some serious self-analysis of indications within or after the hour. This may include the analyst’s response to the patient’s transference, the analyst’s own transference, or any element or feature of the exchange, as well as the analyst’s intrapsychic experience in response to the totality of the analytic situation. * An unconscious feeling or idea that conflicts with the analyst’s ego-ideal, impedes the analyst’s receptivity and self-reflective/self-analyzing functioning, and causes variously conceptualized blind spots that hinder the analysis of the patient, or of the build up of the analyst’s counter-resistance . * A state in the analyst rather than a temporary problem/phenomenon, thus a counter-


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