1st Edition

History of Countertransference From Freud to the British Object Relations School

By Alberto Stefana Copyright 2017
    168 Pages
    by Routledge

    168 Pages
    by Routledge

    The constant and polymorphous development of the field of psychoanalysis since its inception has led to the evolution of a wide variety of psychoanalytic ‘schools’. In seeking to find common ground between them, Alberto Stefana examines the history of countertransference, a concept which has developed from its origins as an apparent obstacle, to become an essential tool for analysis, and which has undergone profound changes in definition and in clinical use.

    In History of Countertransference, Stefana follows the development of this concept over time, exploring a very precise trend which begins with the original notion put forward by Sigmund Freud and leads to the ideas of Melanie Klein and the British object relations school. The book explores the studies of specific psychoanalytic theorists and endeavours to bring to light how the input from each one may have been influenced by previous theories, by the personal history of the analyst, and by their historical-cultural context. By shedding light on how different psychoanalytic groups work with countertransference, Stefana helps the reader to understand the divergences that exist between them.

    This unique study of a key psychoanalytical concept will be essential reading for psychoanalysts in practice and in training, and academics and students of psychoanalytic studies and the history of psychology.

    Foreword by Robert Hinshelwood. Introduction. The origins of the notion of countertransference. Freud and the psychoanalytic movement between the foundation of the IPA, the Great War and the turning point of 1920. The contribution of the early pioneers. The Second World War, the controversial discussions and the tripartite division of the British Psychoanalytic Society. The work of Melanie Klein and her influence on the development of the concept of countertransference. 1947-50: the watershed years. The contribution of the British school of object relations: first phase. The development of the concept of projective identification: a medium of communication. The contribution of the British school of object relations: second phase. Some non-conclusive considerations.


    Alberto Stefana is a psychotherapist in private practice in Brescia, Italy.

    ‘The present volume is a comprehensive, detailed, and eminently fair analysis of the gradual development, problems and increasing sophistication of the concept and therapeutic utilization of countertransference.  Stefana provides the historical background to the controversial origin of the discovery of the countertransference complications in the management of transference, and appropriately deepens the description of new theoretical and clinical developments to permit the reader to reach his own conclusion regarding the contemporary controversies of countertransference management.  This book is a fascinating history of psychoanalytic discoveries, and should of great practical interest not only to the psychoanalytic clinician, but it is also a scholarly contribution to the study of developing psychoanalytic science.’ - Otto Kernberg, MD; psychoanalyst and professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, USA.

    'This superb history of the concept of countertransference makes an invaluable contribution to our field.  The depth, breadth and range of Alberto Stefana’s understanding and his outstanding scholarship make this book essential reading for anyone who is engaged in the study and practice of analytic therapy.' - Theodore J. Jacobs, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, The Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, USA.

    "Despite his intractable subject matter, Stefana has performed an invaluable service to the psychoanalytic community by creating what is essentially a reference guide to the plethora of writings on countertransference. He enables us to go back to the original authors, and the rich clinical material on which they based their ideas, and thereby discover the theorists who work best for us individually as we navigate the many challenges of the clinical situation with our patients." – Hilary J. Beattie, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 2019, 67/3.

    "This is a fascinating and nuanced history of psychoanalysis through the singular lens of countertransference. Though focused, it has a wide sweep, as the deepening of this concept has had huge impact on the whole of psychoanalytical practice and training" – Barbara Faden, Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2019, 64/3

    "the book is rigorously informative, for clinicians as well as academic researchers, about the clinical and historical developments of British object relations, as well as encouraging about how countertransference can be valued as a tool to affect and become affected by another in a clinical setting." – Valerie O. Giovanini, Psychoanalysis and History, 2019, 21/2

    "In his book-length essay Alberto Stefana outlines the history of psychoanalysis itself through the lens of a single, pivotal concept. I think the conceit works rather well in this case. Allowing for the distinction between clinical and metapsychological concepts, I think the concept of transference-countertransference is well‐chosen as an exemplar of clinical thinking. Most importantly, it reveals the extent to which the analytic encounter is above all a relationship; moreover, we are encouraged by Stefana to treat transference and countertransference as a single clinical phenomenon." – Steven Groarke, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 2019, 55/1

    "We all can benefit from Stefana’s labor of love. His insight and nuanced reading of many analytic giants (some well known, others less so) help us understand the varied terrain of countertransference" – Leslie Wells, Psychoanalytic Psychology, 2019, 36/4