Psychology & Psychotherapy

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Countertransference in Perspective

The Double-Edged Sword of the Patient–Therapist Emotional Relationship

Dr. Dov Aleksandrowicz is a training analyst at the Israeli Institute of Psychoanalysis and a former President of the Israeli Psychoanalytic Society. He is a former Associate Professor and Chairperson of Psychiatry at Ben- Gurion University.

Anna Aleksandrowicz is a science writer and editor, and former editor at Opus Communications.

In psychoanalysis the term “countertransference”, coined by Freud, describes the complex emotional relation between therapist and patient. The term is nowadays used in a broad sense, referring to the entire range of emotions experienced by the therapist/analyst covering many types of therapeutic process. Today's mental-health practitioners are called upon to deal with a wide variety of challenges, some of them highly emotionally-charged, such as child abuse, gender identity or catastrophic loss.

This book comprises three main parts: Part I – The History of Countertransference; Part II – The Clinical Challenge; and Part III – The Biological Roots of Counter- transference. After essays in Part I introducing the subject and the history of the concept, as reflected in the classic literature (Kernberg, Heimann, Searles, Balint and Main), Part II presents a range of clinical challenges, analyzed by contributor colleagues with extensive experience in these and similar issues. It also addresses Holocaust survivor issues, and child survivor experiences of the Nazi euthanasia programme.

The study of countertransference, like other psychoanalytic issues, has recently become enriched by the striking advances in the study of the living brain and of animal behaviour (the published works of Panksepp, Hoffer). Part III engages with recent findings regarding the biological roots that have implications for the understanding of counter-transference. A Summary to the volume presents the overall conclusions to the findings presented in the three parts.

The book is intended for mental health and other human service practitioners, such as physicians, educators, jurists and human resource managers.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-791-9
Paperback Price: £34.95 / $49.95
Release Date: September 2016
Page Extent / Format: 240 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


1. Introduction to countertransference: the double-edged sword
Dov Aleksandrowicz/Anna Aleksandrowicz

2. History of a concept: countertransference – a socio-philosophical review
Tali Marron

3. "Why do we have to remain so different?" Some notes on working with a racially abused patient whose skin color differs from that of the analyst
Gustav Sikora

4. Countertransference in the face of growth: reenactment of the trauma
Yael Lahav, Zivya Seligman and Zahava Solomon

5. Countertransference in the treatment of siblings of fallen Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers
Major (Res.) Moshe Z. Abramowitz, Col. (Res.) Haim Y. Knobler, Lt. Col. (Res.) Yoram Ben Yehuda and Dov R. Aleksandrowicz

6. Countertransference in the treatment of Holocaust survivors by a second generation therapist
Katarzyna Prot-Klinger

7. A therapy group for the children of Holocaust survivors in Poland faces loss, bereavement and problems of countertransference
Katarzyna Prot-Klinger, Krzysztof Szwajca, Łukasz Biedka, Kazimierz Bierzyński, Ewa Domagalska, Ryszard Izdebski , and Marta Szwajca

8. Countertransference reactions towards victims: the traumatization of children held as inmates in Vienna's Spiegelgrund Paediatric Psychiatric Hospital
Elisabeth Brainin and Samy Teicher

9. Countertransference: transgender patients
Friedemann Pfäfflin

10. No memory but much desire
Aviva Edelman

11. Compassion, parenting response and the "social brain": implications for psychoanalysis
Dov Aleksandrowicz

12. The evolution of pro-social behavior
Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal and Anat Perry

13. The neurobiology of empathy
Anat Perry and Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal

14. The promise and practice of cosmopolitan empathy
Eric Leake

15. Conclusions
Dov Aleksandrowicz


D. Aleksandrowicz, a training analyst at the Israeli Institute of Psychoanalysis, and A. Aleksandrowicz, a science writer and editor, have edited a fine collection of 13 essays investigating different dimensions of countertransference, a term describing the orientation of the therapist toward his or her patient. Essays cover the terrain well, with a solid historical account of the development of countertransference as a concept, followed by essays exploring the clinical challenges of therapeutic work with particular populations (the racially abused, the traumatized, family members of fallen soldiers, Holocaust survivors and their families, victims of a Nazi euthanasia program, transgender patients, and brain-injured patients). A final section looks at the “biological roots” of countertransference from the perspectives of compassion practice and the so-called social brain, pro-social behaviorism, and the neurobiology of empathy. A final essay, the best in the collection, examines the moral and social implications of the processes of teaching and relating, captured in the term “cosmopolitan empathy.” This book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on empathy, compassion, and human relatedness in general, and is of special value to practitioners and students of psychology and the related human sciences. Recommended.
Reviewed in Choice by M. Uebel, University of Texas

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