Transference and Its Role in Psychodynamic Therapy



Transference plays an important role in psychodynamic therapy—many famous authorities on psychodynamics such as Joseph Burgo regularly give attention to the concept in their writings and blogs, for example, and speak of its prevalence in everyday life and relations.  Transference is something written not merely into the client-therapist relationship but also into many other relationships we have with others in our lives.

Transference, essentially, is the process whereby emotions that a person may have retained unconsciously from past experiences become reasserted in new relationships.  The subjects of the reassertion are often inferred (usually unconsciously) to be similar to or equivalent in at least one aspect to the previous subject of those emotions—a subject that the person typically encountered during his childhood.  This is why so many psychotherapy patients often end up finding their parents or guardians in their youth to be related deeply to their issues or feelings of transference. Childhood is when most of the people are met that later become the cause of feelings expressed repetitively in a person’s later life relationships, and parents/guardians are in a prime position for that role.

Transference is therefore something of great import to therapists, since it helps them understand patterns in a person’s relationships and attitudes towards others, which may help that person understand himself or herself better and resolve problems that might be holding him back from reaching helpful insights about his/her life.  The transference relationship between the client/patient and therapist is one of interest for the purposes of therapy too, as it gives the therapist a direct view of the transference pattern of his patient.  It commences from the unconscious, to be sure, but it can develop into something that both the patient and the therapist are aware of and can explore.

The belief in psychodynamic therapy is that transference is strongly indicative of unresolved conflicts that a person might have within himself—conflicts that, were he to discover them and explore them, could have the potential to lead to a greater awareness of the self and all that he could become were he only to be unshackled from the issues still binding him to particular (problem) patterns in his behavior, interactions, and activities.

Find out how exactly transference is important to psychodynamic therapists such as Joseph Burgo and why it is critical to the insight hoped for by therapists for their clients.

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