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Eber, M. (1990). Understanding Countertransference From Projective Identification to Empathy by Michael J. Tansey and Walter F. Burke Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1989, xiii + 222 pp., $27.50. Psa. Books, 1(2):250-255.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Books, 1(2):250-255

Understanding Countertransference From Projective Identification to Empathy by Michael J. Tansey and Walter F. Burke Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1989, xiii + 222 pp., $27.50

Review by:
Milton Eber, Ph.D.

It is difficult to write on the subject of countertransference without becoming embroiled in controversy. Inevitably, the authors of this new contribution suffer this fate inasmuch as their unique conceptualizations are a significant departure from more traditional views. For them, projective identification is the basic mechanism of countertransference; it would be correct to refer to this work as a treatise on projective identification. They see empathy, projective identification, and countertransference as part of a unitary sequence. Empathy, defined unconventionally, is accorded a key role in countertransference: essentially, empathy is viewed as the outcome of the successful processing of projective identification. The theoretical stance is an interactional one in which psychoanalysis is viewed as a “radically mutual process fully involving two individuals who exert a mutual and ongoing influence upon one another” (pp. 3-4). In keeping with this position, countertransference is conceived of as the totality of the therapist's experience of the patient, both conscious and unconscious. Projective identification is defined as “an interactional phenomenon in which the projector, by actual influence, unconsciously elicits thoughts, feelings, and experiences within another individual which in some way resembles his own” (p. 45). The intent of this work is to present a “theoretical integration of the concepts of empathy, projective identification, and countertransference by demonstrating that these phenomena, often thought to be disparate, are actually elements of one overall sequence through which a therapist can use his emotional responsiveness to achieve an empathic outcome” (p. 37).

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