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Liberman, D. (1978). Affective Response of the Analyst to the Patient's Communications. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 59:335-340.

(1978). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 59:335-340

Affective Response of the Analyst to the Patient's Communications

David Liberman

The subject we are dealing with includes two elements. One of them, 'the affective response', is apparently only connected with the term 'countertransference', and for that reason it might be clear to all of us. Eidelberg (1968) says: 'the term is used by some analysts in connection with all the feelings the analyst experiences for his patients, while others prefer to speak of countertransference only when repressed infantile wishes are involved'. In my opinion, the first part of Eidelberg's definition is the correct one, because it gives room for such elements as empathy, sympathy and decoding, which cover the interaction between patient and analyst.

As to the other element, 'the patient's communications', which I consider much more ambiguous, I should like to explain what I understand by it. With reference to the patient's communications, I stated on several occasions that each and every patient has a repertoire of responses which conform to what I call 'styles of communication'. The styles of communication consist in different structures composed of verbal, non-verbal and para-verbal (or suprasegmental) components which engender a qualitative distinction in the way patient and analyst communicate, and which vary throughout the session. The combinations of such components give a particular style to the patient's communications.

The qualitative distinctive features of the patient's communications require from the analyst an ideally optimal affective response. I shall introduce the term empathy in order to effect a link between the two elements in our subject.

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