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Alumni Group Round Table Discussion Series

February 19, 2021 11:30 am to 1:00 pm

Online - Presentation

Working Through Erotic Transference and Countertransference

David Ansell, DO


Erotic transferences can present generative opportunities for patient growth, yet clinicians may avoid dealing with these experiences due to fears of actual or alleged boundary violations. It definitely behooves the therapist to consider the developmental level of the transference. Sexually-tinged transferences have been viewed on a continuum from erotized, meaning preoedipal or even delusional, to erotic, meaning oedipal or dream-like (de Masi, 2012). The associated countertransferences vary accordingly, with erotized transferences typically provoking feelings of alarm, emotional penetration, rejection, or even repugnance that may impede the treatment. In contrast, erotic countertransference may feel positive, playful, “as if,” and generative. Davies (1998) challenged assumptions that the therapist always represents the oedipal parent in an erotic transference, however, instead suggesting a role for postoedipal sexuality. She also suggests that self-disclosure of an erotic countertransference might be possible in some cases, though most other clinicians do not advise this. To further complicate matters, Slochower (1999) noted that transferences may rapidly shift back and forth during treatment or sometimes mask repressed experiences that are not primarily sexual in nature. For these reasons, Brady (2018) prefers the term “erotic field,” which better captures the subtle, nuanced interplay of erotic transference and countertransference along with other feelings. She authored one of the few published articles that presents case material illustrating the development of an erotic transference in an adolescent patient, whereas most other articles focus on adults.

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