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Martin, S. (2014). A. Colli, A. Tanzilli, G. Dimaggio, & V. Lingiardi (2014). Patient personality and therapist response: An empirical investigation. American Journal of Psychiatry 171:102-108.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 62(4):714-716.

(2014). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 62(4):714-716

A. Colli, A. Tanzilli, G. Dimaggio, & V. Lingiardi (2014). Patient personality and therapist response: An empirical investigation. American Journal of Psychiatry 171:102-108.

Review by:
Sonya Martin

Freud coined the term countertransference in letters to Jung in 1909 and first used it publicly in 1910, in “The Future Prospects of Psychoanalytic Therapy.” In both instances he was warning against the destructive potential of analysts' unconscious reactions to their patients. Writing a decade later in 1919, Ferenczi radically proposed that psychoanalysts could use their emotional responses to foster the empathy and insight underlying the “corrective emotional experience” that motivates therapeutic change. The ensuing century witnessed much debate over the desirable role, if any, of the feelings experienced by psychotherapists during patient encounters. Today most psychoanalysts acknowledge the utility of their own reactions for understanding their patients, citing both clinical experience and case studies to support their convictions. Now they have another resource at their disposal: in a recent article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Colli and colleagues have reported a systematic and statistically significant relationship between patients' personality traits and their therapists' reactions to them.

Colli et al. measured the correlation between therapists' emotional responses and patients' personality pathology in a random sample of 203 therapist-patient dyads in Italy engaged in weekly treatment of eight weeks' to six months' duration. The assessments consisted of the Therapist Response Questionnaire, which detects countertransference patterns, and the Shedler-Westen Assessment Procedure-200 (SWAP-200), which gauges personality and personality pathology. The primary outcome measure was the relationship between specific personality disorders (meeting DSM-IV-TR Axis II criteria) and the following countertransference reactions, attained via factor analysis: criticized/mistreated, helpless/inadequate, positive, parental/protective, overwhelmed/disorganized, special/overinvolved, sexualized, and disengaged. The secondary outcome measure was the relationship between countertransference reactions and therapist's theoretical orientation (i.e., psychodynamic versus cognitive-behavioral).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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