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Myers, T. Long, C. (2015). Is three a crowd? A perspective on countertransference challenges in psychoanalytic couple psychotherapy. Psychoanal. Psychother., 29(4):399-415.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 29(4):399-415

Is three a crowd? A perspective on countertransference challenges in psychoanalytic couple psychotherapy

Tertia Myers and Carol Long

Two seemingly unrelated characteristics of psychoanalytic couple psychotherapy may be better understood when juxtaposed. First, countertransference in psychoanalytic couple psychotherapy holds particularly strong intensity. Second, format decisions are central to couple psychotherapy. The use of conjoint and concurrent formats, or variations thereof, has been key in the historical development of couple psychotherapy and remains an area of much debate. Some couple psychotherapists use the format of couple psychotherapy flexibly, using variations of conjoint or concurrent couple psychotherapy, while others adhere strictly to working conjointly. Decisions regarding whether to undertake concurrent or conjoint therapy are not generally linked to countertransference; this article demonstrates that reading decisions regarding format through consideration of countertransference offers a needed perspective for the therapist. Case studies published by psychoanalytic couple therapists are analysed through this prism to demonstrate that changing the format may serve to dilute countertransference. One particular manifestation of countertransference, linked to oedipal dynamics, is explored: countertransferential intensity for couple psychotherapists potentially relates to being faced with their internal parental couple and their unresolved Oedipal strivings. Possible unconscious motivations to change the format of couple psychotherapy need to be carefully considered, as format changes may mask an avoidance of bearing the countertransference.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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