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Shapiro, R. (1985). A Case Study: The Terminal Illness and Death of the Analyst's Mother—Its Effect On Her Treatment of a Severely Regressed Patient. Mod. Psychoanal., 10(1):31-46.

(1985). Modern Psychoanalysis, 10(1):31-46

A Case Study: The Terminal Illness and Death of the Analyst's Mother—Its Effect On Her Treatment of a Severely Regressed Patient

Rhoda Shapiro, M.S.W.


In recent decades psychoanalysis has paid increasing attention to the emotional reactions and attitudes of the analyst in the psychoanalytic relationship, and to the role of the analyst as a real object. There is no “normal” emotional state for the therapist, as Racker (1968) emphasized: his inner state is continually and profoundly responsive to the patient and to what the patient is saying and doing.

The vicissitudes of life will of course influence the analyst. There are many factors in the analyst's life situation that can interfere with his ability to attend to the patient in an analytic mode. Faced with the terminal illness and death of my mother, I experienced the hazards of being human along with those of being an analyst. I studied the effects of these events on myself and the patient.

Dynamics of the patient and the analyst, transference and countertransference must all be examined in light of terminal illness and death. The effective utilization of the objective or induced countertransference feelings remains the primary task of the analyst, and is described by Spotnitz (1969) as a multiple induction experience. It is important that the analyst experience the patient's feelings so that he may return them to him. Once this has occurred, and the patient experiences the analyst's feelings, he is then helped to put these feelings into words.

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