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Rosenbluth, D. (1970). Transference in Child Psychotherapy. J. Child Psychother., 2(4):72-87.

(1970). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 2(4):72-87

Transference in Child Psychotherapy

Dina Rosenbluth

Freud's Discovery of Transference

Early in his work Freud discarded hypnosis in favour of the interpretation of unconscious conflicts, for in hypnosis the conscious, rational part of the patient, the ego, was not involved, whereas in free association and the assimilation of interpretations the ego had to take an active part in the treatment. But Freud was again disappointed when he found that even after the cause of his illness had been explained to the patient, the symptoms did not necessarily disappear. Intellectual understanding was not enough; and furthermore, patients invariably developed strong feelings of love or hate towards the analyst, which Freud at first felt to be nothing but a hindrance to the progress of their analysis.

Yet it was these strong feelings and impulses directed towards the analyst, and disproportionate as a response to his actual behaviour, which led Freud to discover that they were transferred from some earlier childhood relationship within the family to the present therapeutic relationship. Freud discovered then that patients not only remembered earlier situations of conflict and anxiety in their childhood, but always transferred these to the current situation in analysis, where they re-experienced and relived them. In fact he found that only in so far as they were thus emotionally re-experienced and understood could any real change in the patient be brought about. This necessarily involved a lengthy ‘working through’ of childhood conflicts and feelings towards the analyst, becoming fully aware of them and of their origin in relation to the parents, and gradually being able to find new solutions to these conflicts.

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