Transference Focused Psychotherapy and the Language of Action

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Abstract

Transference focused psychotherapy (TFP) is a psychoanalytic psychotherapy for individuals with personality disorders that is evidence based (Clarkin, Levy, Lenzenweger, & Kernberg, 2007; Clarkin, Yeomans, & Kernberg, 2006; Doering et al., 2010; Giesen-Bloo et al., 2006). An important component of the treatment is examining the transference in the moment-to- moment interactions between the patient and therapist, in order to draw the patient’s attention to her thinking and assumptions, and to the emotional conclusions she makes that are outside her awareness. Roy Schafer, in A New Language for Psychoanalysis (Schafer, 1976) describes how people can actively choose to think and act while simultaneously hiding elements of the truth about these actions from themselves, and proposes the use of action language in our thinking about our work. In this article, clinical examples show how TFP allows for clarification and interpretation of a patient’s activity in a session. The article illustrates how the language of action supports and enhances the TFP psychotherapist’s way of talking to patients.

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