Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Countertransference and Disclosure

Another interesting paper on countertransference is by Zachrisson who sees countertransference as “the analyst’s participation in the relationship.” He writes, “Countertransference refers to something happening in the analyst. …Something takes place in the analyst threatening to bring him or her out of analytic position.” In other words, it may threaten the analytic frame by vitiating the therapist’s analytic attitude. It may seem that Zachrisson has the old fashioned view of seeing countertransference as something to be avoided, but instead he writes “An essential aspect of analytic attitude is precisely this: to allow the expression of what is in the patient's psyche, irrespective of which feelings or thoughts are there, and regardless of what feelings these may evoke in the analyst.” These feelings are to be borne and reflected upon by the analyst, and I would add, reflected upon by both participants. If, as Lachmann intimates, co-construction includes countertransference, then would it not follow that exploration which situates both participants in its construction ought to be part of a necessary negotiation?

Odgen makes use of countertransference and “the subjective contribution of the analyst,” Zachrisson writes, and advocates “analysis of this intersubjective construction” to aid the analyst in accessing “the patient’s inner states.” Because “[s]ubjectivity is present ubiquitously” Zachrisson uses Ogden’s concept of the analytic third to help ‘contain’ both “the subjectivity of the analyst” and “the ubiquity of counter transference.” Furthermore, Zachrisson takes Aron’s ideas about the analytic endeavor being both mutual and asymmetric, the latter making expressions by the analyst “both important and complicated” and reminds the analyst that “such openness must be conscious, clear, and contemplated.”  Here I would interject that this would be the ideal, and as such, unattainable, for enactments, sometimes through spontaneous disclosures, are inevitable. Where the analyst can be more easily mindful is in the attitude to allow everything in from the patient, including the painful explication of the effect on the patient of the analyst’s missteps.  As Zachrisson puts it, “In the intersubjective perspective, the analyst’s relationship to the patient is marked by a high degree of mutual subjectivity.”

Zachrisson cautions, “It is decisive to differentiate the case where the analyst enacts his own needs from the case where the primary aim is to communicate an understanding of the patient’s inner world or of the actual relationship. … If he manages to keep his reflecting stance, the countertransference can be useful. If he loses it, the countertransference becomes disturbing.”

Zachrisson, A. (2009). Countertransference and Changes in the Conception of the Psychoanalytic Relationship. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 18:177-188.  

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