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Sandler, J. (1976). Countertransference and Role-Responsiveness. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 3:43-47.

(1976). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 3:43-47

Countertransference and Role-Responsiveness

Joseph Sandler

As we know, the term 'countertransference' has a great many meanings, just as the term 'transference' has. Freud first saw countertransference as referring to the analyst's blind spots which presented an obstacle to the analysis. From the beginning, countertransference was consistently seen by Freud 'as an obstruction to the freedom of the analyst's understanding of the patient.' In this context Freud regarded the analyst's mind as an 'instrument …, its effective functioning in the analytic situation being impeded by countertransference'. Countertransference in the analyst was equated with the resistance in the patient (Sandler, Dare & Holder, 1973).

As far as transference is concerned, it will be remembered that Freud saw it first as a hindrance, but later regarded it as an indispensable vehicle for the analytic work. However, he did not take a similar step in regard to countertransference, but this inevitable step was taken after Freud. It was a crucial development in the psychoanalytic literature when the countertransference 'began to be seen as a phenomenon of importance in helping the analyst to understand the hidden meaning of material brought by the patient. The essential idea … is that the analyst has elements of understanding and appreciation of the processes occurring in his patient, that these elements are not immediately conscious and that they can be discovered by the analyst if he monitors his own mental associations while listening to the patient' (Sandler, Dare & Holder, 1973).

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