Transference: Loosening the Tie That Blinds

What we do with the attraction is what is important.
—Archibald D. Hart

If you were hungry for love, wouldn't it be nice to find someone who was well-educated, mannerly, articulate but also a good listener, respected in the community, occupationally powerful, yet unselfish, and willing to spend time alone with you for free?

Numbers of counselees think so. They come to a church office and find themselves in the presence of the kindest, most receptive, admirable, gentle, wise person they've met in a long time. The solution to their turmoil, they gradually realize, is not so much what the pastor is saying as the pastor himself.

In my classes for working clergy who are pursuing the D. Min. degree, I talk about this hazard, technically known as transference. (The client is projecting feelings and desires into the counseling relationship that belong somewhere else.) Each term the students write a response paper on how the course has related to their situation. Every time, 20 to 25 percent of them ...

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