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Psychiatry. 1996 Spring;59(1):108-16.

Countertransference in the treatment of patients with eating disorders.

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Department of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


THE term countertransference has undergone considerable change in meaning in recent decades. Freud (1910/1957) defined countertransference as the emotional reaction of the analyst to a patient's transference. It was seen as the unresolved needs and conflicts of the therapist, often unconscious, which interfered with his/her understanding of the patient. Recently, Abend (1989) chronicled the shift in the definition of the term and noted Kernberg's (1965) more totalistic" description of countertransference. In Kernberg's view, the therapist's reactions have more to do with the patient's often intense transference and with the therapist's capacity to withstand the subsequent stress and anxiety, than with any particular problem from the patient's past. Abend (1989) concluded that most clinicians refer to countertransference in this revised way and used the term quite broadly to denote "all those reactions of the analyst to the patient that may help or hinder treatment" (Slakter 1987, p. 3).

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