Why Might Ruptures Occur in the Therapeutic Relationship? The Impact of Splitting and Projection on the Transference-Countertransference Dynamic

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Therapeutic ruptures often happen when clients feel under attack by hateful or threatening objects. These objects, parts of the client s/he believes to be hateful or threatening, are split off and projected outwards onto other people in the client's life and, in time, the therapist. Splitting and projection are psychical defences used to protect against experiencing persecutory anxiety and occur when the ability for thinking thoughts breaks down. Clients who rely on these defences usually have limited capacity to symbolise and so act out their experiences in ways that might be alarming for the therapist. Therapists react by containing projections and are confused when clients terminate treatment abruptly. Early termination is often part of the repetition compulsion enacted by these clients, who continuously split, project and evacuate perceived-to-be bad parts of themselves. This includes the therapist who becomes, unconsciously, a narcissistic extension of the client.

Invited clinical speaker as part of CONFER's clinical conference on Hate, Threat and Unease in the Consulting Room: Working Creatively with Rupture in the Therapeutic Relationship. Other speakers were Ann Murphy (clinical psychologist, psychoanalytic psychotherapist, training analyst, clinical supervisor, visual artist), Dr Ian Miller (clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst and organisational consultant) and Berna O'Brien (psychoanalytic psychotherapist, training analyst and clinical supervisor).

CPD points were awarded by CONFER for this conference.
Period20 Jan 2018
Held atTrinity College Dublin, Ireland
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Psychoanalysis
  • Psychotherapy
  • Counselling
  • Therapeutic Relationship
  • Clinical Practice
  • Transference
  • Countertransference
  • Clinical Technique
  • Negative Therapeutic Reaction
  • Managing the Patient-Clinician Relationship