Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 375-383

First online:

Containing and the patient's observation of the therapist's countertransference

  • Laurence GreenAffiliated with

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Projective identification has received much attention for its ability to elucidate certain types of countertransference reactions. However, many severely disturbed patients are unable to benefit from the insight derived from interpretations based on projective identification. For many of these patients, the initial benefit of therapy is based on the containing provided by the therapist tolerating the countertransference rather than insight based on interpretation. Denis Carpy (1989) has written that the patient's observation of the therapist's tolerance of the countertransference helps to build psychic structure in the patient. In this article, the author reviews Carpy's position and then illustrates the value of the patient witnessing the therapist manage his countertransference using the case example of an adolescent in residential treatment.