Analyzing The Transference: Critical or Over-stated?
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 23, 2013
“The ability to understand and handle transference is perhaps the single most important aspect of psychodynamic psychotherapy, and the subject that separates the truly skillful therapist from the adequate therapist,” says my local colleagues Drs. Thompson and Cotlove in their book, “The Therapeutic Process,” which by now, many of my readers have probably guessed, I am reading in an effort to begin teaching my class tonight on psychoanalytic technique. With all due respect to my esteemed colleagues, this sentence disturbs me greatly. Understanding how the past impacts the present is the basis of psychodynamic psychotherapy. Transference is an inherent aspect of that inquiry. However, I do not think that one can identify any specific understanding which separates out the “skillful therapist from the adequate therapist.” Therapists have different skills to offer different patients. Each dyad brings out different material which, in turn, creates a different therapeutic process. The complicated nature of the patient/therapist relationship does not lend itself to focusing in on one aspect of the relationship. At the same time, I do agree that shedding light on issues in which past important and critical relationships are interfering with the present relationship may save a therapeutic relationship which is otherwise about to fail. These “transference interpretations” are what some colleagues call “high risk, high gain comments,” since they could make the patient feel humiliated in that they are repeating a past abusive relationship with their therapist, or it could make the patient develop deep insights into why difficult relationships are a pattern for them. I have a new class tonight. I hope I can make this distinction in a clear and meaningful way. The adage that if one wants to really learn, then one should teach, might be true. However, and I know I am a skeptic, I think that also depends on the students. Easily stated phrases always make me question. Our need for simplicity must fight with our desire to explore complexity. Exploring complexity wins when the stress is not too great. I hope my students will agree.