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Burke, W.F. (1992). Countertransference Disclosure and the Asymmetry/Mutuality Dilemma. Psychoanal. Dial., 2(2):241-271.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 2(2):241-271

Countertransference Disclosure and the Asymmetry/Mutuality Dilemma

Walter F. Burke, Ph.D.

No single issue illustrates more clearly the interpersonal therapist's struggle between asymmetry and mutuality than countertransference disclosure. On a theoretical plane, all versions of interpersonal psychoanalysis share a comfortable tolerance for a central dynamic tension between the mutual influence of the participants and the asymmetry inherent in a relationship that emphasizes understanding the motivations of only one participant. This same marriage of concepts has, however, been a source of considerable confusion within the area of technique. The practitioner is charged with the technical implementation of the theory and must define the line between asymmetry and mutuality in everyday interactions with patients. Difficulty tolerating the ambiguity caused by the tension between asymmetry and mutuality results in the understandable urge to seek a definitive and unwavering position on countertransference disclosure.

Dimensions of the therapist's struggle include complex decisions concerning the primary unit of study (patient or relationship), the sequence of exploring new and old object transference experience, the use of disclosure with or without concurrent understanding, an assessment of the patient's capacities to tolerate disclosure, and, lastly, the initiation and frequency of disclosure interventions. An integrative perspective on the tension between mutuality and asymmetry allows the dialectical relationship between these principles to reach a constantly evolving equilibrium unique to each patient based on the moment of clinical interaction.

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