“Those people will never get better. One day, they say they are done with using drugs, and the next day they are back high and intoxicated,” Charles said. Charles, the clinician, was having an emotional reaction to John, his patient and client, and this is an example of countertransference, which Freud defined as: a result of the patients’ influence on the physician’s unconscious feelings.
As previously stated, the defense mechanisms used by “healthy individuals” to help them cope with the anxieties that come with repressed thoughts and feelings are known as mature. Those defense mechanisms used by “less healthy individuals,” are known as “unhealthy.” George Vaillant has a four-level classification of defense mechanisms, one level categorized as mature. The remaining three defense mechanisms are classified as…
“I’m here because I fight a lot. I get into trouble with the law, and my attorney and social worker told me to come here.” A 19-year-old gentleman, whom I will call Junior, said this when he met with me. “I’ve been fighting since I was a kid…My mother got so tired of me, she threw me out on the street and I had to defend myself, and now I got arrested,” Junior added. In this article we will elaborate on a common defense mechanism—sublimation.
Mature defense mechanisms are those that take place in individuals who are “emotionally healthy,” though the source of the defense mechanism, per se, may not be as healthy. However, the individual has been able to adapt and use healthy strategies to cope with the anxiety associated with the repression of the painful experiences or thoughts.
In mental health, being “eclectic” means using a combination of modalities in your work with your patients and clients, not ascribing to any one specific method, as necessary, from time to time. Regardless of your orientation or viewpoint for using an eclectic method and approach to treatment, there is power in understanding the coping mechanisms of your patients and clients.