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Transference: Empirical Study

A selected bibliography of empirical studies of transference

Transference Some Empirical Studies

There have been several questions asking about the empirical studies related to the construct of transference. I thought it might be useful to list a selected bibliography from the literature, including comments in italics from some of the articles.

Fried D; Crits-Christoph P; Luborsky L. (1992). The first empirical demonstration of transference in psychotherapy. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 180 (5), pp. 326-31

We found significant similarity between the patterns of relationship with the therapist and with others. One aspect of the relationship pattern, the patient's response to the therapist and to others, was consistently similar. 

FRIED, D., CRITS-CHRISTOPH, P. & LUBORSKY, L. (1990). The parallel of narratives about the therapist with the CCRT for the people. In Understanding Transference-The CCRT Method ed. L. Luborsky & P. Crits-Christoph.  New York:  Basic Books pp. 147-157.

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The main finding of this study was that patients demonstrate a pervasive relationship pattern that can be discerned when they interact with the therapist as well as with other people.

Glen Gabbard (2006) Editorial: When Is Transference Work Useful in Dynamic Psychotherapy? Am J Psychiatry 163:1667 - 1669

Per Høglend, Svein Amlo, Alice Marble, Kjell-Petter Bøgwald, Øystein Sørbye, Mary Cosgrove Sjaastad, and Oscar Heyerdahl (2006) Analysis of the Patient-Therapis Relationship in Dynamic Psychotherapy: An Experimental Study of Transference Interpretations Am J Psychiatry 163:1739 – 1746

Analysis of transference aims to improve interpersonal functioning. Transference interpretations seem to be especially important for patients with long-standing problematic interpersonal relationships.

Høglend, P., Bøgwald, K. P., Amlo, S., Marble, A., Ulberg, R., Sjaastad, M. C., . . .Johansson, P. (2008). Transference interpretations in dynamic psychotherapy: Do they really yield sustained effects? American Journal of Psychiatry, 165, 763–771. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.07061028

Høglend, P., Hersoug, A. G., Bøgwald, K., Amlo, S., Marble, A., Sørbye, Ø., . . . Crits-Christoph, P. (2011). Effects of transference work in the context of therapeutic alliance and quality of object relations. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79, 697–706. doi:10.1037/a0024863

Ephi Betan, Ph.D., Amy Kegley Heim, Ph.D., Carolyn Zittel Conklin, Ph.D., and Drew Westen, Ph.D. (2005) Countertransference: Phenomena and Personality Pathology in Clinical Practice: An Empirical Investigation. American J Psychiatry 162:890-898

Countertransference phenomena can be measured in clinically sophisticated and psychometrically sound ways that tap the complexity of clinicians’ reactions toward their patients. Countertransference patterns are systematically related to patients’ personality pathology across therapeutic approaches, suggesting that clinicians, regardless of therapeutic orientation, can make diagnostic and therapeutic use of their own responses to the patient.

Betan, Ephi J.; Westen, Drew; Countertransference and personality pathology: Development and clinical application of the Countertransference Questionnaire. In: Handbook of evidence-based psychodynamic psychotherapy: Bridging the gap between science and practice. Levy, Raymond A. (Ed); Ablon, J. Stuart (Ed); Totowa, NJ, US: Humana Press, pp.179-198, 399, xxxiii. [Chapter], Database: PsycINFO

Gerber, AJ and Peterson, BS (2006). Measuring transference phenomena with fMRI. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 54:1319-1325.

We propose that a generalized concept of transference, defined as an unconscious aspect of social cognition, is an emerging core concept that can be used to unite theoretical and empirical investigations into normal mental functioning, psychopathology, and psychotherapeutic change. We intend to explore and more precisely describe these phenomena using a paradigm developed over the past fifteen years by Susan Andersen, a cognitive and social psychologist at New York University (Andersen and Baum 1994; Andersen and Berk 1998; Andersen and Chen 2002; Berk and Andersen 2000; Glassman and Andersen 1999). This paradigm is guided by the theory that a normal person’s perceptions and affective responses vis-à-vis the self and others are heavily influenced by the activation of significant relationship representations from the past.

ANDERSEN, S.M., & BAUM, A. (1994). Transference in interpersonal relations: Inferences and affect based on significant-other representations. Journal of Personality 62:459–497.

——— & BERK, M.S. (1998). Transference in everyday experience: Implications of experimental research for relevant clinical phenomena. Review of General Psychology 2:81–120.

——— & CHEN, S. (2002). The relational self: An interpersonal social-cognitive theory. Psychological Review 109:619–645.

The social-cognitive model of transference, which undergirds our theory, defines the phenomenon as occurring when a perceiver's mental representation of a significant other is activated in an encounter with a new person, leading the perceiver to interpret the person in ways derived from the representation and also to respond emotionally, motivationally, and behaviorally to the person in ways that reflect the self-other relationship (Andersen & Glassman, 1996). Although significant-other representations are idiosyncratic in content and meaning, much research supports the view that the phenomenon of transference occurs by means of generalizable social-cognitive processes—that is, by means of the activation and use of these representations.

——— GLASSMAN, N.S., CHEN, S., & COLE, S.W. (1995). Transference in social perception: The role of chronic accessibility in significant-other representations. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 69:41–57.

——— REZNIK, I., & MANZELLA, L.M. (1996). Eliciting facial affect, motivation, and expectancies in transference: Significant-other representations in social relations. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 71:1108–1129.

The New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute

Pacella Parent Child Center

West End Day School

Leon Hoffman, M.D. is the Co-director of the Pacella Parent Child Center, New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. He is a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

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