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Waugaman, R.M. (2000). Displacement of the Countertransference from One Patient to Another. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 9(1):119-126.

(2000). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 9(1):119-126

Displacement of the Countertransference from One Patient to Another

Dr. Richard M. Waugaman, M.D.

We know that our clinical work with a given patient is influenced by all of our previous clinical experience. Sometimes it is useful to examine more specific interactions between our work with one patient and countertransference feelings toward another patient, that spill over into our interactions with the first patient. It is my sense that this topic has not received adequate attention in the literature. I offer this brief contribution as an instance of this phenomenon. In this case, my feelings of “unfinished business” with a patient who had recently terminated spilled over into my initial sessions with a new patient, leading me to be considerably more confrontational with the latter patient than is my usual style. Just as our previous stigmatization of countertransference as pathological interfered with our making constructive use of it, I would surmise that we might strive for an idealized compartmentalization of our work with our various patients, that could interfere with our being able to discern and then make use of such displacements of countertransference feelings from one patient to another.

One December, I had my final session with Mr. A, a man in his early sixties who had sought analysis for depression and marital problems. Although he felt he benefitted symptomatically from our work, his termination left me with the nagging feeling that much in his treatment was incomplete.

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