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Slavin, J.H. (1994). On Making Rules: Toward a Reformation of the Dynamics of Transference in Psychoanalytic Treatment. Psychoanal. Dial., 4(2):253-274.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 4(2):253-274

On Making Rules: Toward a Reformation of the Dynamics of Transference in Psychoanalytic Treatment

Jonathan H. Slavin, Ph.D.

This paper examines the effect patient transferences have on the analyst and on the analyst's stance in treatment. The paper suggests that certain features of what are commonly considered central to a “classical” psychoanalytic stance may derive from not fully understood dynamics of the transference situation and may be neither necessary nor useful aspects of technique.

A comprehensive, developmental conception of transference as a general human endowment is proposed as a way of viewing the impact of transference in the treatment situation. The adaptive function of adolescent regression and adolescent developmental transference is examined as a paradigm for all transferences, both in and outside treatment. In this “adaptive” perspective, transference is understood not simply as a misconstrual of a new relationship on the basis of old struggles. Rather, transference is seen as an effort to bring to bear as much of one's own most vital interests, as they have been shaped developmentally, and to compel the object to provide what one deeply hopes to have gratified.

This perspective provides a basis for understanding the powerful influence that the urgent transferences of patients have on therapists, who are not immune to some degree of enactment in response. Analysts may try, through a stereotyped treatment approach, to avoid the impact of the transference and the powerful vortex of feelings generated by it. Maintaining an adaptive view of transference, however, may enable the analyst to use his or her “countertransference” response to further the analytic work.


I deeply appreciate the careful reading and comments made on drafts of this paper by Christopher Bollas, Ph.D., Philip Bromberg, Ph.D., Darlene Ehrenberg, Ph.D., Irene Fast, Ph.D., Irwin Hoffman, Ph.D., Lisa Kaplan, Psy.D., Linda Luz-Alterman, Ph.D., Stephen Mitchell, Ph.D., Rachel Peltz, Ph.D., and Paul Russell, M.D.

Dr. Slavin is the Director of the Counseling Center at Tufts University, Medord, MA and Scholar in Residence at the Counseling Center at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. He is a Past President of the Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association and was the Founding President of the Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis.

© 1994 The Analytic Press, Inc.

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