Harvard Mental Health Letter

Questions & Answers: Who is helped most by transference interpretations?

Questions & Answers

Q. Who is helped most by transference interpretations?

A. It has always been difficult to show whether one kind of psychotherapy is better than another, or which psychotherapeutic techniques are most effective for which patients. A study in the October 2006 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry supplies some surprising evidence on a method commonly used in psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Psychodynamic therapy works by exploring unconscious defense mechanisms, inner conflicts, and troublesome patterns in personal relationships. All of these may come together in interpretations of the transference — a defining feature of psychoanalysis and the forms of psychotherapy derived from it. Transference interpretation is a notoriously difficult subject to study, so evidence on its therapeutic effectiveness is limited.

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