Psychology "Wounded Healer"
By Diane Vanas on September 3rd, 2008(viewed 2590 times).


Wounded healer is an archetypal dynamic that psychologist Carl Jung used to describe a phenomenon that may take place in the relationship between the analyst and the one being analyzed.

The following is an example of the "wounded healer phenomena" between a psychiatrist and his/her patient:

The psychiatrist, through the nature of his profession is consciously aware of his own personal wounds. However, these wounds may be activated in certain situations, especially if his patient's wounds are similar to his own. (This can be the basis of countertransference*).

In the meantime, the wounded patient's "inner healer" is unconscious to him, but potentially available. The patient's wounds activate those of the doctor. The doctor realizes what is taking place, and either consciously or unconsciously passes this awareness back to his patient. In this way, an unconscious relationship takes place between analyst and patient.

Carl Jung felt that this type of depth psychology can be potentially dangerous, because the analyst is vulnerable to being infected by his patient's wounds, or having his or her wounds reopened. Also, the analyst must have an ongoing relationship with the unconscious, otherwise he or she could identify with the "healer archetype", and create an inflated ego.

Jung derives the term "wounded healer" from the ancient Greek legend of Asclepius, a physician who in identification of his own wounds creates a sanctuary at Epidaurus in order to treat others.

------------------------------- *In psychotherapy, counter-transference is a condition where the therapist, as a result of the therapy sessions, begins to transfer the therapist's own unconscious feelings to the patient. For example, a therapist might have a strong desire for a client to get all 'A's' in university because the client reminds her of her children at that stage in life, and the anxieties that the therapist experienced during that time. Another example would be a therapist who didn't receive enough attention from her father perceiving her client as being too distant and resenting him for it.

Countertransference is also sometimes defined as the entire body of feelings that the therapist has toward the patient, and also includes cases where the therapist literally takes on the suffering of his/her patient. In the most extreme of cases, it can result in the therapist taking on the neurosis or psychosis of the patient, such as bouts of paranoia or psychotic intervals, illustrated by Jung in the case of schizophrenia.

Countertransference is defined in opposition to transference, where a person in therapy begins to transfer feelings (whether positive or negative) to the therapist. For example, the person in therapy may begin to look at the therapist as if the therapist were the patient's mother, transferring their feelings for the real mother to the therapist. This is considered a positive sign in psychoanalytic therapy, showing that the patient is making progress.

Countertransference is ubiquitous and can have both positive and negative effects on the treatment. Most importantly, unanalyzed countertransference can lead the therapist into blindspots and damaging enactments. On the other hand, awareness of countertransferential feelings can provide an important window into the patient's inner world and into the emotions and reactions the client often tends to induce in others.

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