The primary objective of this study was to assess the relationship between countertransference (CT) and therapeutic alliance (TA) during the early stages of psychodynamic psychotherapy. A secondary objective is to assess associations between CT and variables related to therapist and patient and between CT and other patient variables investigated, which were defense mechanisms, symptomology and functionality.
This was a cross-sectional study that enrolled 30 patients treated by 17 different therapists at the psychotherapy clinics of two psychiatry centers. Assessments of each patient-therapist pair were conducted between their fourth and 10th sessions.
The CT distance domain exhibited a moderate negative correlation with TA, particularly its sub-dimension representing the patient's capacity for work in therapy. Moderate positive correlations were observed between CT distance and the splitting defense mechanism and between CT closeness and suppression defenses, in addition to moderate negative correlation between CT indifference and the fantasy defense mechanism. Another finding was higher scores for CT indifference in association with socioeconomic classes D and E.
The quality of CT may provide a source of information about TA. A high degree of CT distance represents a low level of TA, particularly with relation to the patient's working capacity, although presence of the splitting defense mechanism can affect CT, to the extent that it constitutes a confounding variable. The concept of CT is useful to psychotherapists, providing a source of information about the patient's internal world and about certain elements of therapy, such as the quality of TA, which is important for good treatment results.
Psychotherapy; psychoanalytic therapy; psychoanalysis; countertransference; therapeutic alliance