Three ways of using transference in therapy

1. Raising from the unconscious to the conscious. The client has some emotive reaction to the therapist (transference) and the therapist has some kind of emotive reaction back. For instance in session the client becomes bossy and attempts to take over in some ways. The therapist reacts to this with annoyance at the client.

The therapist upon realising the transactions are occurring raises this with the client and they have a discussion about the transferential feelings. In this situation it is used as a diagnostic tool for the therapist and a exploratory tool by the client. It allows the client to gain knowledge of self by understanding their unconscious Child ego state reactions to the therapist (being bossy), with the therapist facilitating such awareness. This awareness is seen as more potent than just pure Adult ego state awareness because the client has actually experienced the emotional reactions and transactions with the therapist first hand. They have experienced first hand their unconscious effecting their here and now behaviour and transactions. This in turn allows the therapist a better diagnostic understanding of the client.

The is a traditional psychoanalytic type of use of the transference and counter transference. They are used to bring unconscious material into the conscious.

2. A relational type of use of the transference and counter transference. The therapist does not use the transference to allow the client further self understanding instead they use the client’s reaction to the therapist and the therapists reaction to the client as a forum for relating to each other. They use these unconscious emotional reactions as they surface as a means for relating to and communicating with each other. The goal is for the therapist to remain open to their own unconscious Child ego state reactions and communicate those to the client and ask them to do the same back. This is done because it assumes this will lead to psychological change in the client (and in the therapist). Through such communicating there emerges a new relationship between the two and this is seen as being therapeutic.

3. Working though the transference. In this approach the client is seen to put or transfer the face of some childhood figure (usually mother or father) onto the therapist in the here and now. This is unconsciously done and the client begins to feel and react to the therapist in the same way they did to mother or father all those years ago.

There are two things that can then happen.

The client is then asked to respond to the therapist, who is now seen as say mother, in a way they always wanted to, but never did as a child. For instance the client may have been angry at mother but never expressed it, or they only expressed it in a passive aggressive way. The therapist picks up the client being passive aggressive towards them and suggests the client express the anger openly to them. If the client does this, they have a new first hand relational experience with “mother” about the expression of anger. In essence the client has broken their “Don’t show anger” injunction. By expressing the anger openly to a mother figure they are no longer following the injunction and have broken the impasse. One could say a redecision has been made because the person behaved in the new redecision type of way. In essence one is doing a piece of two chair work but the empty chair has the therapist sitting in it.

However more is still to come. It is different to empty chair work because the therapist can respond back. The empty chair is not empty. The client expresses anger at the therapist for some reason. The client may accuse them of being bored, inattentive, arrogant, unprofessional and so forth. These will be the things they felt mother originally did to them which are now being transferred onto the therapist (assuming of course the therapist is not actually doing them). The therapist is supposed to respond back to the client’s anger expression in a healthy kind of way. For example acknowledging the client’s anger, complimenting them on being open about it, expressing their own feelings about the anger being shown at them and so on. The client wont be expecting this but will be expecting them to respond back in a way similar to how mother originally did. The therapist is then meant to make sure the client is aware of this new healthy response and asks them to respond back to this new response. The responses then continue back and forward between the two until the exchange is completed.

Not only is the client responding in a new redecision type of way but they are also getting a first hand positive relational experience for doing so, from someone whom they see as psychologically potent (the transference figure). Powerful reinforcement of the new behaviour, indeed.

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