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Spero, M.H. Mester, R. (1988). Countertransference Envy Toward the Religious Patient. Am. J. Psychoanal., 48(1):43-55.

(1988). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 48(1):43-55

Countertransference Envy Toward the Religious Patient

Moshe Halevi Spero, Ph.D. and Roberto Mester, M.D.

The intensive emotional sharing which transpires during the psychotherapeutic process ranges from basic, complementary understanding and empathy to complex, pathological phenomena such as symbiotic merger, projective identification, and psychotic transferences (Little, 1981; Shapiro, 1974). Increasing attention is being paid to the ways in which psychoanalytic psychotherapy recapitulates critical aspects of early development in both therapist and patient, deepening our understanding of psycho-dynamic and object relational qualities of the empathic, interactional process. Perhaps the most important expressions of these interactional-developmental processes are transference and counter transference. Transference and counter transference require additional consideration when treating novel categories of patients which challenge the clinical experience and self-knowledge of the psychotherapist.

The religious patient belongs to this category, if only because the determinants of normal and pathological religious experience, and their meaning in therapy, are less well understood. Equally less well explored are those aspects of the therapist's personality that are most vulnerable to potentially distortive interaction with the “religious” aspects of the patient's personality. Review of the literature, including the resurgent scholarship since 1980-see, for example, Bradford (1984), Lovinger (1984), McDargh (1983), Meissner (1984), Spero (1985, 1986, 1987), and Stern (1985)-reveals relatively few discussions of counter transference reactions toward the religious or ethnic patient (Devereux, 1978; Halperin and Scharff, 1985; Gorkin, 1986; Kahn, 1985; Ostow, 1965; Peteet, 1981, 1985; Spero, 1981). This paper examines some theoretical and clinical aspects of the emergence of envy in the therapist's attitude toward the religious patient.

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