Working Transference in Therapy

I have Stephen M Johnson to thank for the idea. As far as the attitude toward change in therapy, clients seem to have three types:

  • Magic Transference This is where the client expects the therapist to do something that will bring about the change. It is felt that just making it to the office should be sufficient. In this age of narcissism, this transference is not only common, but is also present with some very sophisticated individuals. Quick fixes are expected. Suggestions from the therapist may be complimented and discussed, but they are not implemented. There is very little holding the client once the novelty wears off.
  • Dependent Transference This is where the client comes to the therapist expecting to relate as a young child to a parent. It is felt that just ‘following’ the therapist around should be enough. Support and sympathy is expected. Suggestions are followed weakly, without conviction. The client may stay for a long time without reference to change. In many therapy ‘movements’ dependent transference is seen in ‘groupies’ who are devoted to the movement without any conviction or even clarity about the groups fundamental positions.
  • Working Transference This is ideal. it is felt and believed that application of practices and principles should be enough. Guidance is expected. A psycho-dynamic transference may be operating in the background but it doesn’t dominate the client’s approach to the work. The client is held to the therapy by experience of learning, change, and productive exchange.
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