What is Transference In Therapy? | Kati Morton | Kati Morton

– Hey everybody, today I wanna talk with you about transference in therapy. What is it, why does it happen,
and how can we make it stop. (gentle music) First let’s define transference. Now transference describes an experience when a person unconsciously
redirects certain feelings, expectations, or
desires onto someone else. Now this most commonly
occurs in therapy meaning a client transfers all of this
stuff onto their therapist, but it can happen in our regular life to. Now the reason that
it’s called transference is because we’re transferring
all of those feeling, desire’s, expectations onto someone else and trying to, essentially,
recreate a past relationship that could have been hurtful. Often times it’s like a parental type role but it can be romantic
to, let’s say we had a really abusive or
neglectful significant other, or a abusive or neglectful mother, father, we can transfer all that we feel and all that’s happened
in that relationship onto another person. And like I said, it’s most
commonly your therapist. And the reason that they
think that transference occurs most commonly in therapy is because it’s essential a safe place and so often times it
allows our subconscious to really speak and we can emote more because it’s kind of
that environment where we’re supposed to be doing
that in the first place. And I also briefly want to touch on what countertransference is
because I’m sure if you looked up transference at anytime you saw counter transference
as another definition. Now countertransference is
kind of what it sounds like. If we as a client are
transferring some feelings and desires and expectations onto the therapist or onto someone
else, that other person can counter back and react out of it. And what that really means in therapy is that the therapist hasn’t
got their shit together, they haven’t been in therapy themselves, or it’s been a while,
or maybe they’re having a really long day, cause
we’re human to, right, we’re not perfect, but
countertransference is when we, as the person who’s been
transferred onto reacts out of those expectations and those feelings and usually it’s kind of
like a negative thing, meaning if you were to
transfer onto me all that you felt about your neglectful father and I get angry, and frustrated, and I act out like that,
that would be what we would consider counter transference,
does that make sense? I hope it’s clear, I’ll
also put in the description like my own definition if this
isn’t making sense to you. Now transference can be both good and bad, meaning the emotions or the things that we’re transferring
onto someone else can be good things or bad things,
so know that it’s not always a bad thing, we can
be transferring on loving, hopeful, good feelings
because it’s, you know, the relationship with
maybe our closest grandma, or aunt that we are transferring onto our therapist or our friend. And know that transference in therapy can also be romantically based meaning that we may transfer on some loving, romantic feelings, I’ve heard from a lot of people that they’ve
even, quote unquote, stalked they’re therapist, like looked up stuff up about them online
so they could figure out where they live and
how many kids they have, and see pictures of them on Facebook, know that that’s all kind of part of this and it’s completely normal. The thing that’s the most important is that when we feel these things coming up, when we find ourselves
putting all of those emotions and expectations or maybe
we’re having romantic feelings for our therapist that we
talk about it in therapy, and I know many of you just cringed and like hid your face
because I don’t wanna talk about it, what are they gonna think. Like I said at the very, very beginning, this is so incredibly normal it’s part of the therapeutic process for many people and the sooner we start
talking about it in therapy, the sooner it’ll go away. Because when transference isn’t addressed or worked through in
therapy it can leave us at that spot, meaning if
we were acting out of a child time memory, like
we’re transferring on a child hood memory in a
relationship with a person when we were a child, if
that’s where we’re coming from, it can leave us feeling
like that child again, without any tools to cope
and it can make us feel very frantic, very vulnerable,
and extremely scared. Like I said, transference can occur in therapy and out of therapy. When it’s happening outside of therapy I just wanna caution you, if we notice it’s happening and we can feel it, it’s extremely dangerous because people aren’t
going to really know how to respond, a lot of people
out there aren’t therapists and don’t even know what transference is and wonder why you’re acting
so differently towards them and so it can actually
put us in a situation where we’re extremely vulnerable and we maybe acting out
that child like state, and we’ve left ourselves open and someone could be very damaging
and lash out or cut us out of their life, and cut off completely and that can leave us
feeling even more lost and even more hurt and
almost leave us stuck in that childhood, or that
child like experience. But when this happens in
therapy it’s truly so helpful. What it shows me as a therapist is what stuff do we really need to work on? Are there things that
we haven’t even touched on because we’ve been so
busy managing other symptoms? This tells me when
there’s unresolved stuff, it’s almost like a little
red flag, like hey, over here, you forgot to work on this and so know that it’s not
seen as a negative thing, it’s actually, to me, very positive because then I can take that information, we can talk all that
you’ve been putting at me and pulling into the room
and we can talk about it, we can process it. I can realize maybe that
relationship is what we need to be working on most so that we can give you the space and time to heal. Give you some tools so
that you don’t feel stuck in that space, you don’t
have to feel like you have to try to keep recreating
those relationships, hoping for a different outcome. We, together, can work on some tools and give you some things to use so that that stops happening altogether. So just make sure that
you do you best to express this to you therapist
because if we don’t know that you’re feeling this
way we can’t really help you work on it, we’re
not mind readers, right, we’re human to so work on telling them, whether that’s writing it
down and emailing it to them, however you can communicate it best, let them know what you’re feeling and what maybe you are
experiencing in therapy, in the room, with them because only then can we help you process through it. Also when a lot of my
clients are struggling with transference, and
even though we’re trying to talk about it it kinda gets in the way. Something that has been
helpful is for me to explain to them all of that ways that I’m different from that person. It could be just one
mannerism that I’m doing that reminds you of them and that’s why the
transference is happening. So we need to figure
out that other things, other than that one
mannerism that are different and that set me apart
from that other person. But as always if you feel
that the transference is getting in your way, it’s
making therapy impossible, and it’s impeding you
progress, it’s perfectly okay to say that to them and
to ask for other referrals and start seeing someone
else because at the end of the day it’s just really
important that you know this is normal, it’s part
of the work in therapy, and it can be overcome, with
the right therapist, right? I hope you found that helpful,
I know this is something a lot of you have been
wondering about so leave in the comments what’s
been your experience, and if you’re new to
my channel don’t forget to subscribe and turn
on the notifications, that little bell next
to the subscription box and I will see you next time, bye. Subtitles by the Amara.org community


  1. Wow! This was so helpful Kati. At one therapists office I had romantic feelings for my therapist. At another, the therapist was very rude and yelled at me occasionally when I asked for a form to be filled out (he must have been reacting to another patient)

  2. Hey Kati, I have a question. What advice do you have for scenarios when the relationship with a therapist is suddenly terminated? Today, I found out that the therapist I had last year abruptly moved over the summer due to a job offer for her husband. This was devastating because it took a lot for me to open up to her and I feel somewhat abandoned. I looked forward to continuing sessions with her all summer, and though I said "goodbye" at the end of last semester, it was more of a "see ya later" because I was to continue this year, so I truly wasn't prepared for her to be gone, and now I don't know how to cope.

    Also, thanks for this video. I've always had trouble truly understanding the concept even after researching it a little.

  3. Thank you Kati so much for the videos ❤ I've had a lot of trouble with this for a really long time. It happens in everyday situations and also in therapy, so I try to act normal and not let anyone know. It's disheartening and confusing but I never think it's enough to get help for.

  4. Please make a video about the role of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners in mental health! (PMHNP and psych RN are different)

  5. Thank you for mentioning that this can happen outside of therapy, too. I was feeling weirdly toward someone at work and I think it might be transference.

  6. I dont understand fully. Whats the difference between transference and just talking about past experiences and trauma?

  7. Kati thx so much for your fantastic videos! I think I have transference with my old therapist. He left 3 weeks ago and I'm left feeling hurt and in love with him. I've also been stalking him a bit. I just don't know how to get through this!!?

  8. Yes this did help me to better understand what I have been feeling. Thanks so much for explaining. I'm glad to hear it's completely normal. I will talk to my therapist on my next appointment. Thanks again Kati, you're the best!

  9. Good video but i would argue that tranference always creates conflict no matter if its "good" or "bad". Why? Beacuse no matter what emotion, expectation or conclusion you transfer onto another person, it will cover up who they really are, and therefore the relationsship between the two of you will be partly based on illusion. And as long as there is some kind of illusion there can be no clear thinking about the problem you are trying to get at.

  10. Thank you Kati. This info is very useful indeed. I love your videos and how you talk as you actually know what you're saying (unlike many professionals out there). You have a perception on these things so unique like something you didn't just read in a book. That's why I love your videos so much. Plus I once told you, the best I've gotten from your advices is to Reach out for help.

    Keep up the good work. You are awesome!!!!

  11. I think I have bpd, I already told my mom I need to see a therapist but I did'n mention the disorder itself. Should I say to the therapist that I think I have bpd or should I just say how I feel? I'm afraid they'll think I'm just seeking for attenction

  12. Hey Kati
    My name is Taylor i currently struggle with mental health, self harm and eating disorder and i had a few alip ups this week and I won't see my new therapist until October and i really need to talk to someone and i tried calling my other therapist and she wont call me back. What should I do? Im struggling horribly.

  13. I've never heard of this concept before! I feel like I've done this (with positive emotions) to one or two teachers I've had! I never changed my behavior toward them, but I would always get really anxious around them even if I knew they were really safe for me to talk to.
    Is it always necessary for the person you're transferring the emotions onto have to remind you of a past relationship?

  14. Awesome video, Kati! Also, a topic I would love to hear about sometime has to do with the back-to-school season. How do you deal with being upset with a sibling leaving for college, and the sad empty loss feelings that happen? My sister just left the nest and I have such mixed feelings, and I'd love to hear some input from your perspective and wisdom. Thanks so much! 😉

  15. Hey Kati, what is your opinion on religious fasting? In church we're encouraged to fast now and again, as it's meant to take your focus away from food and put it in another place. However I personally feel like this is really triggering whilst in eating disorder recovery – people saying it's a good enough reason to go without food, when for a year I've been working on reversing them kind of thoughts and knowing that actually there isn't a good enough reason to starve yourself all day. I know the point is to not think about food, but I can't help but feel this isn't the healthiest thing to do right now for me – as much as it would be an easy excuse to carry out eating disorder behaviours, I've worked so hard and am in a place now to be able to say actually no don't undo all of your work, and also using fasting as as excuse just isn't why you should do it. Thank you! X

  16. Ive been seeing a counsellor for 6 months and havnt worked through anything, I have really bad social anxiety and anytime ive brought up bullying I experienced in school, problems I had at home or abusive relationships ive been in I get the feeling she doesnt want to know. She repeats herself in every session, doesnt really listen and we go around in circles. Shes patronising. She told me when im anxious to hold onto my ring finger. Thats her answer to everything. She's the 4th counsellor ive gone to in the past 8 years and its just left me feeling so totally hopeless as none of them have been helpful. They dont explain things or offer any feedback, they just take the money and sessions go around in circles.

  17. Love the new style with the dark background! Also I think it's really fascinating to become aware of transference happening in therapy! Very interesting to hear you talk about positive and negative transference!

  18. I think in therapy I had both positive and negative transference. For example I was afraid of being judged, criticized, invalidated because in my childhood my father did that to me, also I was bullied and rejected in class during high school and so I grew up really sensible to possible rejections.(I have this fears even with normal people outside of therapy) and so I was really anxious with my therapist because of this! But my previous therapist never adresses transference, I mentioned it a bit but I think it's because she was a trainee and didnt have that much work experiences. I plan to start therapy soon and I'll find someone that has more work experience

  19. Would you be able to do a video about miscarriages and the mental health about that? I had one back in January and my sister in law just had one a few days ago

  20. Wooow, the colours of the days of the week are wrong on your shirt and it's stressing me ooouut (love the content – checking out after hearing you talk at VidConAUS)

  21. I hope you see my message. I am a new subscriber. What if my transference is toward my Psychiatrist and not my therapist. I miss him all the time and I feel attached. I like him alot as a doctor. I feel like it's easy talking to him without judgement. But I also fear that telling him would scare him off or he might think it's unhealthy and switch me to another psychiatrist and I don't want that because I need him in my life.

  22. Pretty amazing how the mind works, I never knew exactly how transference worked. You did a good job explaining. Thanks for another great video, Katie! 🙂

  23. kati for awhile i have been thinking about what you said about competitiveness being a mental illness and for awhile i think i forgot to tell you that i now agree with you about that

  24. Can countertransference be when a therapist is telling you about their own life and upbringing?? Because I've had that in session with a therapist before… they were talking more about themselves than listening to me and also completely invalidated the fact I have BPD "Oh yeah I had that too, everyone does" like nooooooo

  25. Dear Katie, how in the heck is a client supposed to know this stuff in the first place. i went to counseling 30 years ago. times were different. you don't talk about this kind of stuff and how would a client even know they are supposed to talk about it? And when is love, love? Or does love never appear in a therapy situation. It's all just issues that a client has or the therapist has. there is no love involved.

  26. Are the cognitive mechanisms behind the process of transference understood? What are its evolutionary foundations? Why does the mind do this?

  27. I'm experiencing this right now with my physical therapist. I'm confused and embarrassed now fearing that anything I do may come off as inappropriate which is in turn making me feel like a total asshole. I dont want him to think im flirting with him , But now that I think of it I may very well be without even realizing. I really want him to like me and found myself blushing HARD CORE during our last session. How the heck do I keep this shit in check? I know 100% its because im feeling vulnerable and he's being so kind and physically close to me. I even joked "listen im really fidgety.., you holding my hand for 40 minutes is…killing me" to try to subtly laugh off how nervous Im becoming. (Not a lie. I injured my hand but I am in general very anxious. So him holding my hand is both freaking me out anxious wise but also making me nervous because I 1) kind of like it 2) dont want my figet to by misconstrued as being inappropriate. I didnt know what to do with my hand and started worrying that it looked like I was trying to pet him..
    But even knowing that its trasference I find myself wondering if he finds me attractive or what itd be like to kiss him. (yes im guilty of looking up his social media too).

  28. Hello Kati. love your channel
    can you please do a video on projection. I am in a relationship where my partner is an alcoholic and its started to happen and I feel so terrible. What can I do? I wish I had the strength to repel it but i don't. I'm beginning to hate the person I once loved. 🙁

  29. Thanks for telling me about something I actually knew very little about! Great thing to remember for my career and therapy-like relationships!

  30. I recently experienced therapist-to-client transference regarding some of his life's experiences. It had nothing to do with what I wanted to talk about since I wasn't even given a chance to say anything. He violated me so badly when he crossed two very immovable boundaries I had set right at the beginning. Dropped that therapist immediately!

  31. I started psychotherapy for the first time a couple of days ago. My therapist really reminded me so much of one of my old teachers who often ridiculed me in front of the class. I felt so intimidated and pissed off!

  32. I have no transference or counter, I am just purely sexually attracted to my therapist. If I didn't meet her there, she would've been my type anyway. Young, sexy body, pretty face etc. But I also know she thinks of me the same and i say that due to the signals and vibes we have in her office. Also the long extended eye contact and smiles etc. We can't wait to see each other abd talk about some of everything. She is human as well. I have never been abused so I know I am not recreating any old feelings from other relationships. She is just too damn hot smh. I know nothing will ever come from it, but it's just fun to dream for now. I don't plan on keeping her longer than a year as I will switch to a new place. I hope my next is old and ugly lol.

  33. So no one believes that someone could just have a crush withiut it being transference? I'm sure many will say it doesn't matter, it's all transference but my crush on my therapist is no different than one on a coworker or something. I don't know much about a few of my crushes. For me it's basically physical attraction, intrigue and her classiness.

  34. What about massage therapy? If you misinterpret the services as personal attention is that a sign that that aspect is missing in your life?

  35. Yes I can finally express this now that I found you online it was always a confusing thing to me I have been in therapy off and on since childhood never having had closeness in my life I always developed a crush on my therapist and was embarrassed by it so I stop therapy and as I matured I always went to an old person feeling safer with them thanks for bringing this out in the open

  36. Kati, you have made me understand the concept of transference and co-transference great work. Moreover, if I can get a difference for projection in a therapeutic session would be great to. Thank you.

  37. I think you did a wonderful job breaking down two complicated topics into layman’s terms. I would have put what you said at 5 minutes at the beginning. Only because the start of video made it sound like a negative thing, versus the healing element of working through it that you said later

  38. Hi Kati, enjoy your videos and have just pre ordered your audio book, could you maybe make another video and elaborate on reactive CT, complementary CT, concordant proactive CT, concordant reactive CT and complementary proactive CT. I feel that when transference and CT is mentioned it only seems to be positive, negative and erotic transference and CT that is often documented however the rest just seems to be missed out. Some simple examples would be great too, maybe even some role play to help display and understand this better ?

  39. Thanks, this was a big topic on my psych exam, and my professor just glossed over it. I had no idea what he was talking about. This clears things up a little

  40. Hi Kati, I just came back to this video after watching the inner child one you put up today. I find that transference often comes up when I'm doing inner child work and I suddenly feel unsafe in the room and I can't even look at my therapist. I've struggled a lot with dissociation and anxiety in session. It's taken years of working with her to be able to recognise the flags like not being able to make eye contact, or feeling far away, and to understand how all my different defenses work together to try to "protect" me from feelings that were unsafe when I was a child.
    I wanted to share this in case it's helpful for others and to say thanks because your videos have helped me to understand all of that better too

  41. My client always tells me that I remind him of someone he knows and when he gets upset, he says things like "I dont like how you call me crazy all of the time"…. and I know i NEVER say these things to him….. it might be the person I remind him of…. Psychology is bomb <3

  42. Great Topic Kati! I have personally have dealt with counter transference and it's a complete nightmare. Its quite scary and upsetting dealing with a Therapist who cant put their personal feelings aside. A provider who starts being mean, hurtful and resentful only with you. As a client it makes you feel vulnerable and trapped because this person knows all this private information no one else knows . Its even worse when you have a condition like Social anxiety that makes confrontation or the idea of disagreeing with someone terrifying. You feel stuck and helpless when you find out your insurance doesn't have other providers in your area or allow you to even switch. Therapy becomes something you dread and terrified to go to. It gets to the point where the only option you see is dropping out of treatment and not telling the provider why. As always I really appreciate all the knowledge you spread. Much love to you always

  43. I don’t know if you reply to comments on old videos but I started to go therapy around February of 2019 and I have became very fond of my therapists and I’m almost obsessed with her. The reason being she reminds me of my ex girlfriend. I have not told her. And she changed my appointments to weekly to biweekly also I’m so anxious to tell now that I know the appropriate way of doing so. But I’m scared of her recommending me a different therapists. I also know that therapy is business matters on both of behaves so I don’t take my obsession to seriously. How do I cope with the anxiousness and keep focus on my daily routine please reply and thank you.

  44. I had a transference towards my therapist. It's almost 6 months that I haven't got back to my therapist since then. The atmosphere around her seems dimming until it doesn't feel safe anymore in her presence. And I don't want to talk to her about it. Idk if I feel fear or what.

  45. Thank you for this video. You brought up some interesting points. I was in therapy where I wasn't explained about transference, and started to experience Transference quite fast. The therapist didn't know how to handle it when I brought it up and this experience got extremely painful, she ignored the fact that therapy could have never worked when I had such strong feelings for her, and left it to me to pull out which I could not. My focus was on her and got stronger over time. As I had a set number of sessions when it came for them to end I was left with unresolved Transference which was devastating to me, close to ended my life. Iv not fully recovered and its been over 3 years close to 4 years since I last saw her. If a person can be stuck in Transference how do they get out of it? Thank you.

  46. This is kinda an old video, idk if you will ever see this comment, but I have a question. I’ve been in foster care basically my whole life & honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a true mother figure. But I think that I am transferring something onto my therapist, idk what though. Like I’m thinking about her a lot, talking about her a lot, really looking forward to our next session, counting down the days until I see her again, constantly googling her sooo much and finding out anything I can about her life, imagining conversations I'd have with her, freaking out over the thought of losing her, feeling really jealous of other people in her life, & just really wanting her all to myself. I think she is perfect & I want to be just like her. How can this be transference if I’ve never felt like this before?

  47. I'm currently in DBT because of bpd, and I've started to develop really intensive romantic feelings for my psychotherapist.. They are not erotic though! It kind of feels like having a crush in 9th Grade. That whole transferrence thing explains how this comes.. My father left me when I was 6 years old, without any reasons, without saying goodbye, and he never came back. I loved him very, very much. I screamed and cried when he left the door.

    I think I transferred all my (unrequidet) love for my father onto my psychotherapist.. I am so confused because this feeling is new. I want to touch, hug and kiss him but don't want more intimacy than that, means no sexual interactings.. I wish intimacy in an innocent way. Still it feels like romantic feelings. I don't know. I'm confused.

  48. Thank you for your amazing video Katie you’ve really got the keys to oral expression 🙂 I currently have this problem with my therapist, I really got along with her but the problem is I realised at some point that the more I let my feelings and feelings go out me and confided, the more I felt some king of dependency or something like that because I feel a real connection. There’s nothing romantic but kin of affective sight I can’t deal with on my on. And try to stop it and I tend to avoid the therapy “requirements” just because of vulnerability and self defense mechanism. I’m trying to protect myself maybe from an over-feeling fall. It’s hard to cope with cuz it blocks me from going on through therapy.

  49. So when people say transfer, does this mean making the (receiver – Recieving the transfer) person feels those feelings..? so if I transfer to you my own sadness will you then feel sad… is that transferrance? Idk why this is so difficult to understand…
    Or is it that I feel sad because my dad made me feel sad (because he abused me), that you will make me feel sad, just because you remind me of him (and I therefore subconsciously feel abused/threatened by you)

  50. i lost my doctor because of this. I was moved to someone else's care after i told her about my feelings for her. And I feel lost and angry, not at her. but at my self.

    btw i liike that shirt, where did you get it at?

  51. Kati! Please continue to keep your videos coming, it helps me SO MUCH with my graduate counseling program in reference to breaking down the terminology of counseling theories, etc in the most simplistic way. You make me want to listen to you, because not only are you clear, but your completely informative in how you break down counseling terminology and I love the fun pop-up's that are included, which makes it even more interesting to listen to. Keep up the GOOD work Kati!!!! You Rock!!!

  52. Oh shit some body is doing this to me at work. Or maybe she is just bullying me. I don’t know anymore 🧐

  53. Spot on. Thank you for you videos. I will open dialogue about this very subject at my next session 👍

  54. Well the explanations for transference break down when it comes to phenomena such as physical ailments getting transferred to the other person or even the other person's spouse. Maybe it has to do with somatids etc.

  55. Thank you for explaining transference and countertransference. I had a difficult time trying to understand what it meant. After viewing your video, It makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks again.

  56. i have been having sexual fantasies about my therapist
    i would be so scared to tell her but i wanna know why it’s happening

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