Defining Countertransference The general definition of countertransference is the therapist emotional reaction to a client (Schwartz, 1978). Since this concept was first introduced into clinical practice it has been controversial with respect to its effects on the therapist and how it impacts therapy and the therapeutic relationship. When Freud introduced the concept in 1910 he stated that it would have a negative effect on the work of the analyst as it showed the flaws and weaknesses of the analyst (Tasone, 1997). Since this time other perspectives and ideas about countertransference emerged and expand the scope of the concept.
One perspective is the developmental perspective which states that countertransference is the emotional reactions of the therapist and the response has its foundation in an experience that took place in the first three years of life (Schamess, 1981). A broader definition of countertransference has emerged and this perspective is known as the totalist perspective.
This perspective states that countertransference is all the feelings and thoughts a therapist has in response to a client (Robbins&Jalkovski, 1987; Tasone, 1997). This perspective acknowledges that a therapist enters the therapeutic relationship with life experiences and feelings that have an impact on all future relationships (Dunn-Grayer & Sax, 1986). This definition has been expanded to include all conscious and unconscious feelings, thoughts and fantasies of the therapist in response to a client. This expanded definition not only looks at the way the therapist feels and the client but how the therapist feels about self (Dunn- Grayer & Sax, 1986).
Place in Practice The place of countertransference in clinical practice has varied over time. In the beginning, it was seen as being subjective and a threat to the therapeutic relationship and the therapy itself (Tasone, 1997). In more recent times, countertransference is seen as a tool that if...