Kerry Malawista is co-author of Wearing My Tutu to Analysis and Other Stories: Learning Psychodynamic Concepts from Life, and she joins Michael at The Psych Files for a discussion of transference and countertransference (which should be conceptualized as co-transference).
Transference is about the client's unconscious material being projected onto the therapist; countertransference is about the therapist's unconscious material being projected onto the client. Each of these, in their traditional usage, misses the intersubjective field created whenever two (or more) people are in conversation.
Co-transference (Donna Orange - see Working Intersubjectively: Contextualism in Psychoanalytic Practice, written with George Atwood and Robert Stolorow) recognizes that if the client is projecting onto the therapist, then the therapist is also contributing to the dynamic. Likewise, if the therapist is projecting onto the client, the client is contributing to that exchange as well.
As you listen to this podcast, please keep in mind that the ideas of transference and counterference are conventional concepts - co-transference is an intersubjective perspective, and represents a post-conventional understanding.
Dr. Malawista is a training and supervising analyst with the Contemporary Freudian Society. She has taught and supervised in a variety of settings, including the George Washington University Psy.D. program, Smith College and Virginia Commonwealth University Schools for Social Work, and The New York Freudian Society.
Ep 185: The Dynamics of Therapy: Transference and Counter Transference: An Interview with Kerry Malawista
Transference and countertransference are two key concepts in psychoanalysis and they are fascinating. If you’re interested in the therapy side of psychology – particularly psychoanalysis – this is the episode for you. Kerry Malawista, psychoanalyst and author, along with Anne Adeleman and Catherine Anderson, talks about their new book, “Wearing My Tutu To Analysis“. In this episode we focus on two of the stories in the book, which focus on transference and countertransference. In earlier episodes of The Psych Files I asked you not to dismiss Freud’s ideas. Too often we only hear about his (100 year old) ideas on sex. There is A LOT more to Freud and this episode will convince you of that.
Basically, transference is when we take real live feelings from our own life and then literally transfer them onto the therapist or analyst. We do this in all aspects of our lives. If the brain had to respond to every new encounter like it had never seen it before we’d be overwhelmed with data. So transference is our way of using what se’ve learned from our earlier lives and then representing it on new people that come along. Sometimes that’s for positive when things went well in the past, and sometimes negatively when we keep repeating relationships [from the past] that weren’t helpful. – Kerry Malwista
Just like transference, countertransference is ubiquitous. It’s all the emotional responses a therapist has to a patient – both conscious and unconscious – and how valuable that data is if it can be used in the right way. That’s where the skills of the therapist come in. They can make note of the feelings they’re having and their [own] reactions and use them to further the work and maybe understand how the patient is actually feeling. – Kerry Malawista
Resources on Psychoanalysis