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Schaffer, A. (2016). The Analyst's Idealization of the Patient: On Not Seeing the Dark Side. Contemp. Psychoanal., 52(4):602-621.

(2016). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 52(4):602-621

The Analyst's Idealization of the Patient: On Not Seeing the Dark Side

Amy Schaffer, Ph.D.

There is a large body of literature on the patient's idealization of the analyst. Much less is written about the reverse: the analyst's idealization of the patient. This article argues that this imbalance stems not from the infrequency of the latter, but rather from its neglect. Psychoanalysts often unwittingly harbor valorized views of their patients. This subjective tilt may contribute to the therapeutic action, but it can also do harm. Aspects of the analyst's engagement contributing to this phenomenon include the caregiving behavioral system, love, and emotional immersion. These can augment and obscure cocreated transference/countertransference enactments entailing idealization of the patient. The supervision and self-supervision of analysts should include awareness of this tendency.

[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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