Projective Identification and Psychotherapeutic Technique

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Projective Identification and Psychotherapeutic Technique (Electronic book text)

The projecting person generally seeks to be physically close to the person into whom the fantasy is projected which leads to identity connection with the other. Ogden believes that the client actually experiences relief when the projection has been extruded and preserved.


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Ogden, Preserving the projections then is a crucial role for the therapist. We need to identify with the client and allow her to direct us and our associations both consciously and unconsciously by matching and identifying with the feelings that she projects. Traditionally psychoanalysts focused more on the projection and what the client was doing rather than on what they as analysts were doing. The focus has since been expanded to explore what is concurrently happening for the therapist in the interaction and how their process affects the therapeutic encounter. The encounter is intersubjective and allows both to feel and re-experience troubling patterns and attitudes that constitute unconscious affective categories.

The question is not what to do if countertransference is present but in what form it takes and how to use it effectively. The effects of projective identification are strong and can produce intense countertransference reactions. Our predicament involves bearing and metabolizing issues of our own personal pasts at the same time as experiencing deeply painful issues as presented by our clients. What we have difficulty tolerating in the other is unquestionably more often than not matched by what we disavow in ourselves.

What is Projective Identification and How Shall It Be Treated in the Room?

Greatrex, Well timed and attuned clarifications and interpretations are paramount when working with projective identification as each client will differ in terms of what they are able to retrieve and assimilate. Often it may not be wise to interpret at all depending on the capacity and psychological maturity of the client to work through their projections. This may require then of the therapist a more creative approach to working through the material presented.

The moment of repair includes the sense that the therapist can bear what both the client and often the therapist originally found unbearable.

Projective Identification - Object Relations View (part 2)

What is projected is not only primarily a part of the client but a fantasy of an object relationship. This often brings a new state of hopelessness and despair for the client which can prove detrimental for the therapy. Casement suggests that the unconscious hopes of our clients are not always met if we remain blocked or shut off from the attempt at communication or fail altogether to recognize the interactive pressure.

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More harmful though in the relationship is when the therapist puts pressure on the client to receive their projections. There is then the potential for this resulting in therapeutic misalliances wherein both seek gratification and defensive reinforcements in their relationship. In addition, the client may despair about the prospect of being helped by a therapist who shares significant aspects of their pathology. Langs in Ogden, By not accepting the projective identification we as therapists are also repudiating the learning and psychic growth that we could gain from working with our clients.

As mentioned earlier projective identification is an infiltration of the mind and body of the therapist.

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It is largely seen though more as a body to body communication and represents the non-linguistic communications between mind and body. Awareness of your own body as well as of theory and practice of the body and body processes is I would say a necessity in being able to identify, understand and work with projective identification more holistically. Therapists then need to be willing to be effected by their clients and to embody the experience of identifying projectively with them whilst maintaining a psychological distance from them.

We do not use clients for our own psychic growth. We as therapists need to be constantly monitoring our own countertransference reactions and be able to also contain them in the midst of interactive affective pressures from our clients. The support that we need to do this is ongoing commitment to extensive supervision and our own personal therapy. For a long while working with projective identification can feel like a perpetual process of trial and error and can lead to a great deal of frustration and disharmony for the therapist who is already trying to get to grips with a whole plethora of other therapeutic skills.

It is however crucial to every therapeutic relationship that all therapists get to grips with this phenomenon and become acutely aware of its presence in the therapy room. De Mello, Vera Rita. Projective identification: A theoretical discussion about some roots of power. Gomez, Lavinia.

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