What Is Transference-Focused Psychotherapy?

Updated February 13, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Dutil

If you've been looking at different types of therapy and you're not quite sure what they can each do you may have stumbled across transference-focused psychotherapy. Or maybe you've been looking for specific methods that are used to treat personality disorders, and this is the type of therapy that you came across. Either way, we're going to take a look at just what it is, how it works and what types of conditions it's used to treat. From there, you'll be able to talk with a therapist to find out if this is the type of therapy for you, or what might help you even more.

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What Is Transference-Focused Psychotherapy?

Let's start with exactly what the title asks: what is this type of therapy? It's a very well structured type of therapy that meets up to two times a week, and it looks at the way an internalized belief about the self and others can affect the individual. Generally, this type of therapy deals with those with a borderline personality disorder, because these are the individuals who experience these types of symptoms. You might struggle with thoughts and feelings that seem to contradict one another and that you can't bring together. As a result, this type of condition tends to lead to extreme problems in your normal life.

It can lead to difficulty maintaining relationships with others. It can also create a distorted perception of oneself and the people around them. Not only that but it can result in multiple personalities, which can then result in even more personal trauma and harm. With this type of therapy, the therapist seeks to help the individual to bring together these separate selves so that they can create one standard and one method of relating to the world around them. They do this by challenging their own beliefs.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

If we're going to say that this type of therapy is designed to help those with a borderline personality disorder, we should also take a closer look at just what that means. This type of disorder is characterized by individuals who are highly reactive to different stimuli in their environment. Someone with this disorder may have very intense relationships, and they may behave very impulsively. You never know what they're going to do next and you also never know what type of emotion they're going to exhibit in response to minor or major experiences in their lives.

This type of disorder can lead to a feeling of emptiness, substance abuse, gambling, uncontrolled spending, depression, anxiety, nervousness, and euphoria. Emotions tend to come and go quickly, but each one is extremely intense at the same time. These individuals are also at high risk for suicidal behaviors and threats as well as exhibiting dissociative or paranoid symptoms. If the disorder is not treated these extremely dangerous symptoms can be allowed to continue to get worse and worse. What all of that means is that it's extremely important to get help for someone who has a borderline personality disorder, as soon as possible.

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How It Works

There are only three different steps that this type of therapy consists of and each of those steps is going to be simple to understand (though not necessarily simple to execute as therapy is an extremely complex situation). For each step, it's important that both the patient and the therapist are fully on board and fully informed. That way, you can start to see results as soon as possible. Keep in mind that any form of therapy is going to take time.

First, the specific beliefs and thoughts need to be expressed in a way that can define what they mean to the patient. Describing the internalized thoughts and beliefs is important. From there, it is building upon the thoughts and beliefs and how that impacts the individual and their life. And finally, full integration is carried out to bring the different beliefs and views in line with one another. It's a difficult and time-consuming process to change someone's thoughts about themselves, but with the right support and the right therapist to help along the way it definitely can be done.

The patient works on these thoughts and feelings by transferring what they feel about others in their life onto the therapist. That way, the therapist can decipher more accurately what is going on with the patient and their relationships. They can see how those interactions work and to help guide the patient on what the relationships actually should look like in a healthier sense. This helps or is believed to help, with unresolved problems that may stem from childhood relationships that may have been difficult or dysfunctional in some respect.

Overall, this type of therapy is focused on a long-term goal rather than the short-term goals that you'll find with most types of therapy. Because it's seeking to change the way that an individual thinks, feels and is, this type of therapy doesn't settle for only changing the outward symptoms that an individual exhibits. Internal representations and beliefs are extremely difficult to counter, but that's the goal of each session between a therapist and patient. Evaluating thoughts and beliefs as well as relationships is crucial in this process.

By developing a relationship between the therapist and the patient that allows both to discuss the reasons behind the fragmentation and the beliefs, it's possible to continue to challenge them. This also makes it more possible for the therapist to help guide the patient towards combining and integrating the different 'selves' that they have to create the self that they truly want to be. All of this allows the individual to feel more balanced and to feel more like an individual rather than feeling like they are being pulled in far too many different directions.

What's The Plan?

The main idea is to help the individual to reduce their risky and dangerous behaviors and to help them learn how to control themselves even better. It's intended to help them form strong and lasting relationships and to help them to follow and achieve the goals that they have for their own lives. In general, it's meant to help them integrate the self and to create a cohesive vision for their future. In all, this is going to make for a much better standard of living, and it's going to help the individual to enjoy their time with loved ones even more.

Other Types Of Therapy

In general, a borderline personality disorder is treated with transference focused psychotherapy, dialectical behavior therapy or modified psychodynamic supportive psychotherapy. Each of these types of therapy has shown some benefits for the individual, but this one is the only one that research seems to show as changing the actual thought patterns that an individual has when it relates to themselves. That's going to make a huge difference in your overall life, don't you think? If you can change how you feel and how you think about yourself, it gives you the capacity to change your entire life.

Getting Professional Help

If you think that transference-focused therapy might be for you, or if you're just thinking that therapy, in general, might be for you, getting professional help is easier than you think. Many people think of therapy as sitting on a couch in a white room with a therapist who asks you questions about how you're feeling today, but therapy has evolved far beyond that (or was it ever like we've seen in the movies?). Today, therapy is far more relaxed, and it's far more focused on helping you to grow and change in completely new ways. Even more, it doesn't need to take place in that room.

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You can carry out your therapy entirely online now, and that means you're able to cut down on some of the negative effects that no one likes. You can now communicate with a therapist from anywhere in the world, which means as long as you have an internet connection snow or a sick child or a family vacation or anything else won't keep you from having that session. Not only that but your therapist doesn't have to work or live anywhere near you. They can be located anywhere in the world too, so you get more options when it comes to finding a therapist that you can count on and trust.

You're going to have a whole lot of freedom and a whole lot of options when it comes to finding your next therapist online. All you need to do is take a look, and you've to find services like BetterHelp that allow you to interact with therapists from just about anywhere. All you need to do is check it out, and you can start the process of finding a therapist that you like and that you feel most comfortable with, and your sessions with a start in no time at all.


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