Transference and Countertransference

A few reasons explain why transference and countertransference are typical when working with children. Firstly, transference is present because it is difficult for children to manage their emotions. This situation results in the fact that if a child witnessed a bad or good person in the past, this experience likely impacted the child’s present (Malawista, 2004). Consequently, Malawista (2004) admits that children can consider a therapist a rescuer who can solve all the existing problems.

Secondly, countertransference, a practitioner’s conscious and unconscious emotional response to a child’s transference, is widespread because rescue fantasies make many social workers work with young patients. This statement denotes that therapists decide to be child analysts because of their desire to have a child or protect young individuals from problems (Malawista, 2004). This information denotes that working with children involves many emotions, introducing transference and countertransference in social work.

According to the information above, it is reasonable to consider how I respond to the issues. On the one hand, it would be possible to address transference by staying neutral to avoid supporting and actualizing children’s beliefs (Malawista, 2004). For example, if a child explains that their parents are wrong, it is significant to refrain from supporting this statement. Simultaneously, it would be helpful to invest in developing clients’ resistance. This statement denotes that I would do my best to identify whether my client would experience transference. If yes, I would organize counseling to explain to the client that transference does not have solid reasoning. In this case, it would be practical to highlight the differences between a person in a child’s past and another one in the present to mitigate the impact of transference.

On the other hand, there are different recommendations to address countertransference. Firstly, it would be necessary to increase awareness and self-reflection to identify when the phenomenon affects my practice (Malawista, 2004).

For example, when I work with myself, I would be able to identify the cases when my emotions overwhelm me and influence my professional decisions. Secondly, it is required to remember that work with children implies the presence of their parents or guardians who can intervene in therapy (Christogiorgos & Giannakopoulos, 2015). That is why I would communicate with the parents and guardians to ensure that their intrusion into treatment does not lead to countertransference. Furthermore, cooperation with the adults would be necessary to ensure that children’s words do not shape my attitude towards their parents and guardians.


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Christogiorgos, S., & Giannakopoulos, G. (2015). Parental presence and countertransference phenomena in psychoanalytic psychotherapy of children and adolescents. Psychoanalytic Social Work, 22(1), 1-11. Web.

Malawista, K. L. (2004). Rescue fantasies in child therapy: Countertransference/transference enactments. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 21(4), 373-386. Web.

Taylor, E. R. (2009). Sandtray and solution-focused therapy. International Journal of Play Therapy, 18(1), 56-68. Web.

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2003). The neurobiology of childhood trauma and abuse. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 12, 293-317. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Transference and Countertransference." September 22, 2023.