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De Forest, I. (1951). The Significance of Counter-Transference in Psychoanalytic Therapy. Psychoanal. Rev., 38(2):158-171.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Review, 38(2):158-171

The Significance of Counter-Transference in Psychoanalytic Therapy

Izette De Forest

“Reality Between People is the Basis of Freedom.”—John Macmurray

The technical terms “transference” and “counter-transference” represent in the Freudian vocabulary the emotional reactions toward each other of the two persons in the psychoanalytic relationship. This relationship is determined by the particular characteristic of therapy; that of direct benefit to the patient and of indirect benefit to the therapist, in the form of pleasure in his patient's increasing health and in the stimulating interest of his profession.

In all interpersonal associations, however, the phenomenon of transference is constant; each person is transferring emotional reactions to every other person with whom he is in contact. Each such activity is based on childhood experience, whether wholesome or unwholesome. According to Freud we are unconsciously reliving, constantly until our death, our nursery experiences; finding our happiness in repeating the successful adjustments of infancy and our unhappiness and neurosis in the unsolved problems. Over these latter we are compelled by our developmental urge to continually labor; seeking fervently their solution, seeking success in our relations with others. They comprise the content of the neurotic person's transference tendencies throughout his life; and that of the neurotic patient's transference during therapy.

The essential purpose of psychoanalytical therapy is to untangle the confused puzzlement of childhood, so that the unhealthy elements of the “repetition compulsion” may be eliminated. This is achieved by the increasing insight of the patient as he is assisted to recognize his transference productions, hitherto unconscious. He learns to comprehend his neurotic phantasy life and in its place to strengthen his sense of reality. The psychotherapeutic situation proves empirically to be dissimilar to his nursery situation. Therefore his previous defense becomes unavailing and even destructive. He forces himself to cast it aside.

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