Introjection in therapy

I was asked this question in supervision yesterday.

“How long would it take in a therapeutic setting for a client to introject the therapist?”

Introjection involves a person ingesting or taking in the other person’s personality into their Parent ego state such that it becomes part of them. This diagram shows how it can happen in a marriage.

Introjection diagram Jpeg

It is probably safe to say that introjection happens in all therapeutic relationships where the client introjects the therapist into their Parent ego state. The therapist will also introject the client but usually to a much lesser degree because the relationship between client and therapist is an asymmetrical one.

Indeed introjection occurs in every relationship. When any two people spend time together they will instinctively and unconsciously introject the other into their Parent ego state. A good example of this is a marriage where you have two people living in close quarters for a very long period of time. This usually results in quite a degree of introjection over a period of time.


Different therapies will encourage or discourage introjection depending on the approach used. The more clinical therapies like CBT tend to discourage introjection whereas those therapies that encourage catharsis and focus on the therapeutic relationship will tend to encourage more introjection by the client. The more a therapist ‘allows’ or encourages a client to develop feelings and a sense of closeness with the therapist the more introjection is likely to occur.

Speed and degree of introjection occurring varies depending on a number of factors

Depends on client’s personality type

Personality types and introjection Jpeg

The more potency the client perceives the therapist to have.

Readiness for psychological change. Introjection involves a restructuring of the personality. New features of the personality are added which also has an impact on the pre existing features.

The more often they see the therapist the more quickly it occurs.

Out of therapy contact can make it occur much more rapidly.

Homework exercises or other ways a therapist can encourage a client to recall the therapist in out of session times.

Physical contact between the therapist and client.

Some kind of “gift” given to the client or to a lesser extent accepting a gift from the client.

Something experienced by the client as special treatment.

Lack of attachment figures in the client’s everyday life.

The more the therapist allows their own Child ego state into the therapy

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