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Jackson, M. (1961). Chair, Couch, And Counter-Transference. J. Anal. Psychol., 6(1):35-43.

(1961). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 6(1):35-43

Chair, Couch, And Counter-Transference

Murray Jackson


The use of the armchair in preference to the analytic couch reflects the view that analytical psychologists hold in common about the nature of the analytic process. This is that the analyst is not only a blank screen, armed with a technique and a set of theories, on to which the patient projects the images derived from infancy and childhood. The projection of these images and their identification by patient and analyst is considered to be one theme of analysis, but attention is focused on the way in which these images tend to function under certain conditions. These conditions are considered to be closely related to the analyst's psychic structure, his attitude, and his motivation. In a successful analysis the patient tends to change quite a lot, and this is thought by analytical psychologists, following Jung, to be related to the fact that the analyst is intimately involved in the process, and is himself changed to some extent during the course of any thorough analysis that he conducts.

Once one begins to think in this way about the situation, it becomes very complex indeed, since evaluation of observations must take into account the analyst's part in them, and this involves not only his thinking, but the other psychic functions, both conscious and unconscious.

Couch or Chair?

The chair involves the analyst in ways that the couch does not, and aims not to do. Thus a patient in an armchair can look at his analyst, and this is a very different situation from the couch, where looking can only be talked about. It can be argued that there are advantages in the analyst's invisibility, and on the other hand, it is not quite true to say that a patient on a couch does not confront his analyst at all, since he is able to use his eyes on the return trip from the door, and even while he is on the couch.

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