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Kernberg, O. (1965). Notes on Countertransference. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 13:38-56.

(1965). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 13:38-56

Notes on Countertransference

Otto Kernberg, M.D.


Contrasting views of countertransference and its clinical use are outlined. It is suggested that countertransference may be helpful in evaluating the degree of regression in the patient and in clarifying the transference paradigms during severe regression.

Patients with the potential for severe regression in analysis or expressive psychotherapy tend to foster serious countertransference complications, especially "counteridentification."

It is suggested that countertransference complications in the form of "counteridentification" are related to the partial reactivation of early ego identifications and early defensive mechanisms in the analyst. While these counteridentifications may be the source of important information about the analytic situation, they are also a serious threat to the analysis, and predispose the analyst to the development of "chronic countertransference fixation."

The following signs of chronic countertransference fixation are described: reappearance of abandoned neurotic character traits of the analyst in his interactions with a particular patient; "emotional discontinuation" of the analysis; unrealistic "total dedication"; "micro-paranoid" attitudes toward the patient. These countertransference complications present themselves especially in the treatment of patients with a potential for severe regression and whose conflicts center around pregenital aggression.

The importance of "concern" as a general trait of the analyst, helpful in protecting him from the countertransference complications mentioned, is described. Some of the characteristics, preconditions, and realistic limitations of the development of concern are mentioned.

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