In a recent episode on the podcast The Psych Files, Kerry Malawista discussed her book Wearing My Tutu to Analysis and Other Stories: Learning Psychodynamic Concepts from Life (written with Anne J. Adelman and Catherine L Anderson).
In particular she discusses transference and countertransference as it relates to the patient-therapist relationship. You can listen to the full podcast here but The Psych Files also published a couple of excerpts from Kerry Malawista during the interview:
Basically, transference is when we take real live feelings from our own life and then literally transfer them onto the therapist or analyst. We do this in all aspects of our lives. If the brain had to respond to every new encounter like it had never seen it before we’d be overwhelmed with data. So transference is our way of using what se’ve learned from our earlier lives and then representing it on new people that come along. Sometimes that’s for positive when things went well in the past, and sometimes negatively when we keep repeating relationships [from the past] that weren’t helpful.
Just like transference, countertransference is ubiquitous. It’s all the emotional responses a therapist has to a patient – both conscious and unconscious – and how valuable that data is if it can be used in the right way. That’s where the skills of the therapist come in. They can make note of the feelings they’re having and their [own] reactions and use them to further the work and maybe understand how the patient is actually feeling.