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Author: David Kraft PhD


This term is used in psychoanalysis and it refers to a situation in which the client transfers his emotions on to the therapist. For example, a client might perceive his therapist to be someone who is trustworthy. This, in turn, may elicit some memories of the past of a parental figure, or indeed, somebody who was influential in the past. The client may then redirect his emotions onto the therapist, and may trust the therapist more readily as a result. Transference is a projection of one’s feelings toward one person onto another. In fact, any comment made by the psychoanalyst could bring about a memory from one’s childhood. For example, a comment from the analyst, although seemingly innocuous, could remind the analysand of a memory of his parent being aggressive towards him in early childhood. And, this could cause the client to become angry, frustrated or upset during the therapy. However unpleasant this may be for the client involved, it is, nevertheless, important for the psychotherapist to pick up on this association and to deal with its relevance. These memories are unconscious and, in most instances, the clients seem to have repressed these thoughts or memories. The idea of the therapy is to bring these associations from the pre-conscious into consciousness, by analysing them and coming to terms with their significance. Indeed, transference can occur in all sorts of guises. In some instances, it is not what the person says; the tone of their voice or outer appearance can elicit memories from the past. These memories or associations are usually emotionally-charged when they are associated with parental figures.


Transference is, indeed, a term which has been utilized by psychoanalytic community. Most analysts would say that working in the transference is the most helpful way to analyse one’s emotions and behaviour. However, a therapist who has also trained in behaviour therapy might offer alternative solutions to helping somebody in clinical practice. It is important to note that transference, however, occurs in all types of therapy. And, in addition, it is a phenomenon which occurs in every day life. For example, when people meet someone new, it is fairly usual that a behaviour or mannerism will remind them of someone in their past. We make predictions on people’s behaviour on the way that they dress, or the tone of their voice. This is a further example of transference in the every day setting. Sometimes, people act on these unconscious mechanisms. An example of this is a personal reflection below:


A short example of transference outside the consulting room

I was at a local pub having a quiet drink outside. One man became very angry and agitated towards me. He accused me of being a policeman and proceeded to shout and make aggressive comments towards me. At one point, the man told me that it was strange for somebody to drink alone in the pub. He repeated, again and again, that he didn’t know me; he was also very angry about the fact that I was wearing a suit and a tie. I didn’t stay in the pub for very long because I could imagine the situation getting worse, and I certainly didn’t attempt to analyse him in order to find out a little more about the root cause of this transference. On reflection, this was a typical example of transference in which the person identified a person in a suit as being aggressive and punitive towards him. I was an unknown person to him, and he made the initial conclusion that I was in the police and he was very angry with me. I don’t know who caused these initial problems for him. Perhaps, he has had problems with the police spying on him in the past; perhaps, his father wore a suit and a tie and punished him as a child. I don’t know. However, what I do know, from this short interaction, is that I resembled a person who was spying on him and represented a potential threat.


Understanding these unconscious mechanisms can be the key to helping somebody gain more control of their feelings and behaviours. In psychodynamic psychotherapy, the idea is to analyse these associations and to bring them to consciousness. Understanding these emotional issues and conflicts can help people to feel happier and more in control in their every day lives.


About the author

David Kraft is a well-respected and experienced psychotherapist who uses a multi-modal approach to treatment. Originally trained in psycho-analytic psychotherapy, he continued his studies so as to incorporate the following approaches in the consulting room: psychodynamically-oriented psychotherapy, Rogerian therapy, solution focussed brief therapy, behaviour therapy and hypnosis. David is an independent psychotherapist and his approach is tailor-made to suit the needs of each client. David has two clinics – one in Harley Street and the other in Enfield. In order to book a session, please ring 0207 467 8564 or ring his mobile which is 07946 579645.


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