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Countertransference[1] is defined as redirection of a psychotherapist's feelings toward a client -- or, more generally, as a therapist's emotional entanglement with a client. The phenomenon was first defined by Sigmund Freud in 1910 in "The Future Prospects of Psycho-Analytic Therapy" as "a result of the patient's influence on [the physician's] unconscious feelings," but the topic was left to others to develop, as he rarely referred to it himself. [2].

The term includes unconscious reactions to a patient that are determined by the psychoanalyst's own life history and unconscious content; it was later expanded to include unconscious hostile and/or erotic feelings toward a patient that interfere with objectivity and limit the therapist's effectivness. For example, a therapist might have a strong desire for a client to get all 'A's' in university because the client reminds her of her children at that stage in life, and the anxieties that the therapist experienced during that time. Another example would be a therapist who didn't receive enough attention from her father perceiving her client as being too distant and resenting him for it. In essence, this describes the transference of the treater to the patient, which is referred to as the “narrow perspective.”[3]

Countertransference is also sometimes defined as the entire body of feelings that the therapist has toward the patient, and also includes cases where the therapist literally takes on the suffering of his/her patient.[4] In the most extreme of cases, it can result in the therapist taking on the neurosis or psychosis of the patient, such as bouts of paranoia or psychotic intervals, illustrated by Jung in the case of schizophrenia.[4]

Today’s moving trend to the contemporary understanding of countertransference is to regard countertransference as a “jointly created” phenomenon between the treater and the patient. The patient pressures the treater through transference into playing a role congruent with the patient’s internal world. However, the specific dimensions of that role are colored by treater’s own personality.[5] Countertransference can be a therapeutic tool when examined by the treater to sort out who is doing what, and the meaning behind those interpersonal roles (The differentiation of the object’s interpersonal world between self and other).


See also


  • Heinrich Racker : Transference and Countertransference, Publisher: Karnac Books, 1988, ISBN 0950714690
  • Horacio Etchegoyen: The Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique, Publisher: Karnac Books, 2005, ISBN 185575455X
  • Margaret Little: Transference Neurosis and Transference Psychosis, Publisher: Jason Aronson; 1993, ISBN 1568210744
  • Harold Searles: Countertransference and related subjects; selected papers., Publisher New York, International Universities Press, 1979, ISBN 0823610853


  1. ^ Horacio Etchegoyen: The Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique, Karnac Books ed., New Ed, 2005, ISBN 185575455X
  2. ^ Laplanche, J & Pontalis, J-B. (1973) The Language of Psycho-Analysis p. 92
  3. ^ Gabbard, Glen O. (1999). Countertransference Issues in Psychiatric Treatment. American Psychiatric Press. p. 1.  
  4. ^ a b Jung, Carl J.. The Psychology of the Transference. p. 8.  
  5. ^ Gabbard. p. 3.  


  • Groves, James MD. "taking care of the hateful patient", New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 298 No. 16


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