Transference and Countertransference

Specific skills and knowledge are essential for a social worker working with children. Understanding transference and countertransference is crucial to a healthy therapeutic relationship. Both transference and countertransference can be evident in any client–therapist relationship, but are especially important in working with children because of a common instinct among adults to protect and nurture the young. The projection or relocation of one’s feelings about one person onto another, otherwise known as transference, is a common response by children (Gil, 1991). Countertransference, a practitioner’s own emotional response to a child, is also common. For this Discussion, review the Malawista (2004) article. Post your explanation why transference and countertransference are so common when working with children. Then, identify some strategies you might use to address both transference and countertransference in your work with children. Respond to at least two colleagues who identified strategies different from your own by proposing alternative strategies. Colleague 1: Kristine Transference and counter-transference Transference occurs when those we serve transfer their positive regard onto the person they put in the role of importance or good in their life. This person could be the therapist, doctor, school counselor, or teacher. Counter transference happens when the therapist, doctor, school teacher, or counselor adopts the rescue fantasy, taking their clients emotional status unto themselves, and becoming their knight in shining armor. According to Malawista (2004), transference and counter-transference happen when social workers assume the role of “right and good” in a child’s current situation of “right and bad”, being the parents. The child can put the social worker in that place and depending on the child’s story, it would be difficult to not be upset or angry on behalf of the child and the situation they suffered through. Strategies to keep this from happening This first thing that comes to mind is to remember that the story the child tells you is only half of the equation. While we may want to believe everything they say, sometimes the story comes out backwards and sideways. Other ways to keep the story concise and to the point is through motivational interviewing, play therapy, and drawing activities. For some children pictures tell the story better than words on a page, or questions asked. References Malawista, K. L. (2004). Rescue fantasies in child therapy: countertransference/transference enactments. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 21(4), 373-386 Colleague 2: Tachelle Explanation why transference and countertransference are so common when working with children. Transference and countertransference are very common when working with children. They are essential in evaluating a child’s inner world through past and present relationships. As a social worker, it is very important to understand what transference and countertransference is and where they come from. Transference occurs when a person in treatment redirects feelings for others onto the therapist. For example, a child is angry at the parent(s), the child would transfer all their anger onto the social worker. Countertransference occurs when a therapist transfers their own emotions to another person in therapy. For example, if a social worker wants to help and ensure the safety of a child as their own. Racker (1968) differentiated two types of countertransference: a direct type, which is associated with the patient’s transference movements, and an indirect type, which is relevant here and constitutes the therapist’s emotional response toward subjects out-side of the analytic process (colleagues, supervisors, and of course, patients’ parents) whose opinion or attitude could be of significance for the therapist. Strategies you might use to address both transference and countertransference in your work with children. Some strategies I might use to address both transference and countertransference when working with children is first to always be aware of myself, setting boundaries and demonstrating the importance of human relationships. As a social worker, it is important to be aware of your own emotional triggers. To ensure transference and countertransference does not occur, it is also important to set clear boundaries with clients. Although setting boundaries with children can be a bit more difficult, it is still a must. As stated in the National Association of Social Workers Ethical Standards (NASW), social workers are responsible for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries, that social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships. Therefore, we as social workers must ensure we are aware of our triggers and are able to maintain a professional boundary with our clients all while working to strengthen relationships with them. Also, as Christogiorgos, & Giannakopoulos (2015) explained, building a relationship with the parent(s) to ensure success in therapy is also important. References: Christogiorgos, S., & Giannakopoulos, G. (2015). Parental presence and countertransference phenomena in psychoanalytic psychotherapy of children and adolescents. Psychoanalytic Social Work, 22(1), 1-11. National Association of Social Workers. (2017). Code of ethics. Retrieved from… Racker, H. (1968). Transference and countertransference. London, UK: KarnacBooks. Requirements: 1-2 paragraphs

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