Countertransference types and their relation to rupture and repair in the alliance

Orya Tishby, Hadas Wiseman

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Background Ruptures in the alliance are co-constructed by clients and therapists, reflecting an interaction between their respective personality configurations [Safran, J. D., & Muran, J. C. (2000). Negotiating the therapeutic alliance: A relational treatment guide. Guilford Press]. In order to work effectively with ruptures, therapists should be aware of their own feeling states, acknowledging the subjectivity of their perceptions [Safran, J. D. (2002). Brief relational psychoanalytic treatment. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 12(2), 171–195.]. Lack of such awareness may be a product of countertransference (CT), which has been shown to be inversely related to outcome. However, when effectively managed, CT contributes to positive outcome [Hayes, J. A., Gelso, C. J., Goldberg, S., & Kivlighan, D. M. (2018). Countertransference management and effective psychotherapy: Meta-analytic findings. Psychotherapy, 55(4), 496–507.]. Objectives: The present study examined the associations between types of CT and therapists’ reports of ruptures and resolutions. Method: Data were collected from 27 therapists, who treated 67 clients in yearlong psychodynamic psychotherapy. CT patterns were assessed based on therapists’ Core Conflictual Relationship Themes with their parents, which were repeated in narratives about their clients [Tishby, O., & Wiseman, H. (2014). Types of countertransference dynamics and their impact on the client–therapist relationship. Psychotherapy Research, 24(3), 360–375.]. Results: Negative CT patterns were associated with more ruptures and less resolution. Positive patterns predicted resolution when the therapists repeated positive patterns with parents, but predicted ruptures when they tried to “repair” negative patterns with the parents. These results point to the importance of therapists’ awareness of their CT in order to deal effectively with ruptures and facilitate resolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPsychotherapy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 30 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Society for Psychotherapy Research.


  • alliance
  • brief psychotherapy
  • psychoanalytic/psychodynamic therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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