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Jørstad, J. (2002). Erotic countertransference: Hazards, challenges and therapeutic potentials. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 25(2):117-134.

(2002). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 25(2):117-134

Erotic countertransference: Hazards, challenges and therapeutic potentials

Jarl Jørstad, M.D.

The views on countertransference in psychoanalytic theory and practice have undergone a change within the last fifty years. From being considered an impediment to analysis, countertransference is today looked upon as an important potential for a tentative understanding of what is unconsciously communicated from the analysand to the analyst. This implies that the analyst is susceptible to the unconscious interaction in the transference and the countertransference, and that he/she becomes conscious as quickly as possible of what is taking place. This applies especially to erotic feelings which are often intensified in analyses with patients with a serious psychopathology, as well as in analyses with patients in regressive phases where projective identification is the dominant factor used as a defence and a communication. Opinions differ as regards the question of how to deal with such a situation, especially whether it is right to be candid about the analyst's countertransference feelings towards the analysand, something most would caution against. In an example from an analysis, the analyst describes how he was influenced by an unconscious erotic countertransference. After three years of therapy with a patient with a serious psychopathology, he developed “motherly” feelings, which he interpreted as reflecting a child's longing for closeness and physical contact. The result was that a few times, he “forgot” to indicate the end of the session, which was then prolonged, and also that he embraced her on several occasions before she left the session. One year later, he had intense sexual fantasies and dreams about the analysand, which he experienced as both enticing and alarming, and as an impediment to the analysis. He soon became aware of the element of projective identification in the interaction, and by interpreting the analysand's unconscious communication, he regained his ability to maintain an analytic attitude and clear boundaries.

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