Two Therapists --  A Matter of Splitting

A reader emailed me to ask why therapists do not want patients seeing more than one patient at a time. 

Historically, in Zurich it used to be the practice for analysts to suggest to analysands that they see 2 analysts at the same time, one of each gender. The assumption was this would make a more complete experience. But so far as i know, that is no longer recommended.

So we come to why. The basic reason is what we call splitting the transference. In therapy of any duration feelings about the therapist develop. Some of them are based in the patient's history and some arise from the response to the real person of the therapist. Transference is an important part of depth work and talking about transference feelings and reactions is a major part of the work. It is not easy to talk about feelings about and for another person with that person; it is not something most of us habitually do. It's hard enough when the feelings are positive but when they are negative, it can be an order of magnitude harder.

Imagine that you are seeing two different therapists. And you have conflicting feelings. An example of splitting the transference would be complaining, that is revealing your negative feelings about one of them to the other but not talking about those feelings where they are actually alive and important. It is quite similar to what children do when they play one parent off against the other.

To avoid this kind of complication, which is not the only problem with seeing two therapists, most of us ask that our patients see only one at a time.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2007. All  rights reserved.