Countertransference and Retribution
reviewed by Mira de Vries
The 19-letter word "Countertransference" sets the tone
for what this is about -- psychobabble.
The subtitle "Two Plays" is misleading because they
aren't two plays. You need the "first" play to
understand the "second" play. Ziffer could have better
called his book "Countertransference -- a play in
The first scene is a dialogue between therapist and
patient. We never learn their names.
The patient is a shy, somewhat awkward male
mathematician who longs for feminine companionship.
The purpose of the therapy is to complain about a
previous therapist. According to the patient, the
former therapist ruined his life by failing to respond
adequately to his tale of a trivial meeting with a
woman. His new therapist supports and encourages him
in this view.
In the next scene we learn that the patient has killed
his former therapist. The way we are told this though
novel is unrealistic and out of character, yet not
exactly a surprise twist. I'll not tell you what it is
to leave you some suspense.
The rest of the play consists of TV-style courtroom
scenes that explore the question of responsibility.
Who is to blame for the therapist's death? Is his
former patient whose hand killed him? Did the
therapist bring it upon himself by harming his former
patient? Or is the new therapist to blame, either for
persuading his patient to believe that his former
therapist harmed him, or if you take the view that he
actually was harmed, for revealing this harm to him?
Ziffer is warning us that psychotherapist and patient
become emotionally entangled in a relationship which
he compares to marriage. He also warns that
psychotherapy can be a grand waste of money. However,
he does not make clear whether he believes that it can
ever be useful.
The therapists are called psychiatrists although they
are engaging in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis only.
Ziffer acknowledges that their activities bear no
resemblance to that of the psychiatrist whose job is
to write prescriptions and defamatory reports, not
uncommonly regarding a person he hasn't met, let alone
formed a relationship with. In this story the
therapists have MD titles allowing the author to raise
the question, when is a psychotherapist guilty of
Readers who take pleasure in joining this type of
Socratic debate will find this book interesting.
MeTZelf thanks Mr. Ziffer
for the complimentary copy of his book.