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Althofer, B.A. (1983). Uses of Sensory Images in the Therapeutic Interaction. Psychoanal. Rev., 70(1):47-55.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(1):47-55

Uses of Sensory Images in the Therapeutic Interaction

Beth A. Althofer, Ph.D.

The following discussion of sensory imagery and countertransference forays into largely uncharted territory. Numerous investigators throughout the annals of psychoanalytic history have explored the interrelationship between empathy and countertransference or empathy and creativity. Until recently, however, few have focused upon the creative, growth-promoting potential inherent in the inevitable transference-countertransference continuum. In this paper I will address myself to the salutary aspects of focusing upon sensory imagery in clinical practice, as well as to the countertransferential dangers inherent therein.

I should like at the outset to propose and briefly elaborate upon a basic thesis, that psychoanalytic therapy is a highly creative and experimental process, involving, I would stress, a deeply personal and idiosyncratic language and interplay for each unique patient-therapist dyad. However, I feel that there is an important distinction, pertinent to this issue, to be made between psychoanalytic therapy and an aesthetic or art form.

Certainly, like the performer or artist, the creative therapist has the capacity for what Arieti (1976) would call tertiary process, or a progression in the service of the ego; he uses both primary and secondary process to create a new synthesis of thought, feeling and imagery communicable to and useful for the patient. Jacobs (1973) and Kern (1978) call our attention to the kinaesthetic sensations and sensory


* Presented at Washington Square Institute for Psychotherapy and Mental Health, New York City, April 26, 1979. I would like to thank Dr. Ira Keisman and Lawrence Sullivan for their generative inspiration, Dr. Charlotte Kahn for her help in the preparation of this paper, and Dr. Robert Mollinger, Helen Altieri, Judith Young and Gerd Althofer for their assistance and support.

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