The Case of Yael by Louis Breger, Ph.D.
First, we will consider the narrative that Yael might construct about her work with Lou. This is not a very difficult task, given that the request made by Lou for Yael to share her perception of the therapeutic engagement produces a summary narrative. While Yael might be distorting (or even lying) about her relationship with Lou, we can assume that she was being candid. She writes about compassion, attunement, active listening, insightful observations, equanimity, non-defensiveness, allocation of time, self-disclosure (and intuition), normalization, conscientiousness, friendship, shared love of music, support and forgiveness.
No wonder that some people might conclude that the transference hasn’t been resolved—Lou sounds like a saint. There is an alternative approach that we might take in describing Yael’s probable narrative. She might have seen Lou initially as a caring father (or lover), but came later in her therapy sessions to see him more as a caring mentor (or grandfather figure). The loosening of boundaries seemed to have occurred at a later point in the long therapeutic engagement, when Yael was able to see Lou in a more “realistic” (or at least less libidinous) light. She had withdrawn some of her projections from Lou and was able to evolve into a caring wife and mother.
Perhaps the most important of the characteristics identified by Yael is “forgiveness.” The long history of Yael’s work with Lou seems to be anchored in her slowly-won ability to forgive herself for events that were actually outside of her control. The other characteristics identified by Yael would seem to provide the conditions for trust in Lou and in his own acceptance of her and his full appreciation of her life history.
What about Lou’s narrative? We know from his own comments that Lou was himself going through some personal and professional transitions. He was engaged in a rigorous psychoanalytic training program while raising a family–a very difficult balancing act (in terms of time management as well as emotional management). He admits to “workaholism” — which may have contributed to struggles in his own life. Lou also went through the battlefield of divorce and later remarried. One might suppose through all of this that a client such as Yael who is consistently appreciative of his work would be a real comfort (and a potential well-spring of powerful counter-transferential dynamics). This might also have been a “safe” place for Lou to evolve as a therapist: to what extent is the shift from face-to-face to the couch and then back to face-to-face the result not of Yael’s preferences, but instead of Lou’s exploration of alternative psychotherapeutic methods and strategies. This shift might very well have been a joint decision–a part of the inter-subjective, shared narrative of Yael and Lou.