Fundamentals of Transference / Countertransference

Written by Elsa

Transference is when someone transfers their feelings that they have towards someone else onto another person, instead of of the original person. To explain this in a psychotherapeutic session it goes like this...... you are in session with your therapist and he says something to you that sets you off and you get very angry at him. You lash back with your anger and say things that really have nothing to do with him at all. He has said something to you that triggers another relationship from the past and that anger from the old relationship gets transferred onto him.

Another example is a love transference and this is very common in therapy. You go to see your therapist and you are starting to have strong feelings about him. He reminds you of someone from your past - your father - and now you seem to be transferring the feelings that you had towards Daddy onto your therapist and you want him to meet the needs that you had towards Daddy.

Countertransference occurs when someone says something to you because you triggered something from their past and their response to you triggers something back towards them. So you are now "counter" transferring back to them - "returning" the transference feelings back to them. An excellent example of this - use the same therapeutic setting - you have said something to your therapist because his words triggered your feelings - he then responds harshly back to you - he has transferred his emotions (triggered from a past experience) and has now responded his feelings back to you. This usually happens when a therapist has his own emotional baggage that he hasn't dealt with in therapy.

Another example of countertransference - you are speaking with a friend and she responds a bit harshly and walks away from you - you get angry at her and make it known that you're ending the friendship with her because you can't deal with her outbursts anymore. She has had a transference of her past feelings towards you and when she walked away from you there was a countertransference of possible rejection from a past relationship and you choose to end the relationship because you are transferring your feelings onto her.