Transference

Starting off, this was one of the biggest problems.  I try to be nice to everyone but one of my first clients developed an issue of transference.  I had to terminate the relationship because of how it was escalating.  Since it is a situation that occurred to me very recently, I asked a friend, Guest blogger Courtney Card, to take us through transference.
By Courtney Card

Depending on who you ask, “transference” could mean one of three things:

1. Therapists in consultation with one another may refer to transference as a general statement about the strength of the therapeutic relationship. In this view, a “good” or “positive” transference means the therapist and client get along reasonably well. “Negative” transference means some conflict or blockage prevents a good working relationship.

2. The classic use of the term transference comes from psychoanalysis and includes: “the redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object.”  Transference happens everywhere, including within any therapeutic modality. Psychoanalysis just intensifies it (through all that blank screen stuff) and places it under the microscope.
3. Yet another way transference is used refers only to the loving feelings. Shorthand for what therapists call “erotic transference,” this is where the client develops romantic feelings for the therapist.

​What’s the problem with transference? Rather than connecting with the person, we’re relating to a template, which may be quite different from the flesh and blood in front of us. You’re treating Jane Doe like she’s your mother, or your grade school rival, or an idealized object of desire, when she’s actually none of the above – she’s Jane Doe. It prevents you from really connecting with Jane in a meaningful way. But it’s not always bad. Transference in therapy can be incredibly helpful, pointing us in the direction of unhealed wounds. It can transport therapy from lecture to laboratory.

Fictional Reader says the “intense attachment” is uncomfortable and difficult to discuss, and wants some coping strategies. A few come to mind:

Normalize – Some people feel ashamed for having loving, sexual, or seemingly off-the-wall feelings toward their therapist. But really, this does happen all the time. Therapists interested in relational issues and deep work expect transference of some sort to arise, and most are comfortable talking about it.

Talk about it – Fictional Reader is talking about it, and his therapist encourages it. Most of the time, this is all it takes to make these uncomfortable feelings more manageable and even help them diminish. Having difficulty getting started? How about: “I’ve been feeling a little uncomfortable here recently, and I think it has to do with our relationship.” The therapist should know where to go next.

Find the root – Transference reactions usually point to some deeper issue or unfinished business from the past.

Look for differences – If you really feel the need to end the transference pattern, you can try to actively separate the person from the template.

How do you want to relate? – Like so many situations, when we’re focusing on what not to do, we do just that. Don’t think of an elephant. Spend some time thinking about and discussing how you want to relate to your therapist, how you’d like it to feel, what you imagine it would look like. Then practice.

One of the biggest issues of transference developing in hypnotherapy is that a client may become dependent upon the therapy and/or therapist, so again, the client developing responsibility and being shown to take responsibility for them self as much as possible throughout the hypnotherapy is incredibly important. Again, if explained from the beginning and holding the client accountable to this notion, the focus can go elsewhere.