Countertransference in psychotherapy?
For, at are cores, we are but human………………
And with these lines, we come to the topic of countertransference, the second and final part of our series.
The word was coined by the famous Sigmund Freud and refers to the possible effects of the client’s unconscious thoughts, feelings and expectations upon the therapist. The reaction from the therapist is potentially unconscious as well. It ultimately matters how the therapist uses their own emotions to analyse and interpret the entire process.
You may hence think that a good therapist is one who does not experience counter-transference but that is infact, not true………. the therapist rather uses it as a tool; a means by which to better understand the patient, thereby enhancing the therapeutic process.
Self-analysis, is a crucial part of every therapist’s journey and knowing one’s own self paves the way to knowing another soul. Recognizing, analysing and overcoming countertransference is hence an integral part of self-analysis. According to Freud, the therapeutic process is an intense, interpersonal process in which encounters with the patient’s unconscious has an impact on the unconscious mental processes of the therapist.
- One way to explain the process with a simple example is when a client presents with a problem which the therapist may have also experienced. The client may report feeling alone and different from others and even ashamed of themselves due to this ordeal. Though not usually recommended, the therapist may choose to share their encounter with the client, either by divulging partial information or complete information (depending upon the present requirement).
- A person who is working as a therapist has recently had a harrowing experience with domestic abuse. They may feel agitated and triggered while dealing with a new client who presents with domestic abuse and may realize that their personal experience may result in hindrances in the therapy. The therapist may hence inform the client that the case needs to be transferred to another fellow professional whilst gently clarifying that the client is neither at fault nor is to be blamed any way.
So how do you guys manage it, you may ask!
It has been suggested by Van Wagoner et al., 1991 that there are five ways for a therapist to handle and minimize countertransference-
- Self-Insight (awareness and understanding of self, including thoughts and emotions)
- Ability to conceptualize the therapist-client relationship
- Empathising with others
- Self-Integration and having strong self-identity
- Anxiety Management for self
- An ability to question own thoughts and motives
- Admitting that we all have ‘blind spots’
- An understanding that clinicians may also be affected by clients
- An understanding that clients may have strong emotions towards staff.
Psychotherapist in Kolkata
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