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Tip: To review the bibliography…

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It is always useful to review an article’s bibliography and references to get a deeper understanding of the psychoanalytic concepts and theoretical framework in it.

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Krimendahl, E.K. (1994). Countertransference in Psychotherapy with Children and Adolescents: Jerrold R. Brandell (Ed.). Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1992, xxii + 356 pp., $45.00.. Psychoanal. Psychol., 11(3):419-421.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 11(3):419-421

Countertransference in Psychotherapy with Children and Adolescents: Jerrold R. Brandell (Ed.). Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1992, xxii + 356 pp., $45.00.

Review by:
Elizabeth K. Krimendahl, PsyD

When asked why there was so little discussion of countertransference among child analysts, a psychoanalyst once replied, “Because there is too much of it” (Kohrman, Fineberg, Gelman, & Weiss, 1971, p. 492). As child analysts know, their young patients can evoke particularly intense countertransference reactions. Anna Freud and Melanie Klein, the originators of child psychoanalysis, paid virtually no attention to countertransference in their writings, and their legacy continues to influence the literature.

The scarcity of literature on child countertransference stems from both the classical view of the analyst's emotional reactions as an obstacle to treatment and the sometimes intense reactions that child analysts may experience for various reasons: the more active stance and parental role often required (Bernstein & Glenn, 1988); the fluidity of children's functioning and their difficulty modulating affects; the relatively primitive, action-oriented nature of children's communications (Kohrman et al., 1971); and societal taboos against sexual and aggressive feelings toward children, which may evoke formidable defenses (Marshall, 1979).

Books on child analytic work are rare, and books on countertransference in child treatment are basically nonexistent, despite the proliferation of writing on countertransference in work with adults. Thus, Jerrold Brandell's edited volume is a welcome and long-overdue addition to the literature. Although the book is not strictly about analysis, it is analytically informed. The theoretical perspective on countertransference espoused by the authors is “totalistic” (Kernberg, 1965) including all the analyst's reactions to the patient). This encompasses both the classical definition of countertransference as an idiosyncratic response that interferes with treatment and objective reactions that are evoked by the patient's actual personality and behaviors.

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