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Samuels, A. (1984). Commentary by an Analytical Psychologist. Brit. J. Psychother., 1(1):81-84.

(1984). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 1(1):81-84

Commentary by an Analytical Psychologist

Andrew Samuels

When supervising or merely commenting on case material, my initial focus tends to be on the countertransference and, in particular, on the non-neurotic or therapeutically usable countertransference. Regarding this case, I was struck immediately by the almost compulsive interrupting style the therapist found himself adopting (para 7 of the session). Either the therapist has embodied the returning father who ‘interrupted’ the patient's closeness with his mother. Or the therapist reflects the patient's wish to interrupt (defeat) the therapist. Or both. As we work through this material, we'll use one or other of these formulations.

As far as the theoretical back-up to such observations is concerned, Jung's stress (1929) on analysis or therapy as a mutual and interactive process, in which both participants are involved and which may change both of them, is a primary source. This attitude has been central to analytical psychology from the earliest days and Fordham's later development of the idea of syntonic countertransference is in this tradition (Fordham 1957). The therapist is ‘in tune’ with the patient's unconscious. The terms ‘reflective countertransference’ and ‘embodied countertransference’ are my own particularisation. The idea that countertransference reactions in the therapist may be unconscious communications from the patient, and hence of clinical use, seems to be a contemporary Freudian-Jungian consensus. In psychoanalysis, there seem to be three strands: the analyst's use of his affects and his consideration of his total response to his patient (Heimann, 1950; Little, 1957); intense study of two-way communicative interaction in analysis (Langs, 1978; Searles, 1979); and examination of introjective and projective processes as they emerge in countertransference (Racker, 1968).

None of these ideas rules out the possibility of neurotic countertransference which, as we shall see, needs constant monitoring.

The therapist reports a fantasy of his about the patient - that he is an arrogant and overconfident child. Again, this example of the therapist's total response (Little's ‘R’) may help diagnostically: narcissistic personality disorder, perhaps.

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