Transference Focused Psychotherapy

Transference-Focused Psychotherapy (TFP) is an evidence-based psychodynamic therapy designed for patients with the type of condition known as personality disorders. Individuals with these conditions may experience depression, anxiety and/or other intense emotions. They may also experience frustration and a lack of fulfillment in personal relationships and work achievement.

"Psychodynamic" refers to the idea that different parts of our mind are always in movement and that this may result in conflicts; for example, conflicts about whether or not to act on an impulse, urge or desire.

TFP sees difficulties in an individual's psychological structure (the way the mind is made up) as underlying many of the specific symptoms the individual is experiencing. Simply put, psychological structure is seen as built around images of oneself and important other persons that have been internalized in the course of growing up. These images are not fully conscious within the individual, and they may contain distortions. They play an essential role in how the patient adjusts to life as they become the lenses through which an individual interprets or "reads" what he is experiencing. Exaggerated, distorted or unrealistic internal images can lead to problems in mood, self-esteem and relations with others.

These problems can be modified through psychotherapy. TFP is based on the idea that the patient experiences and lives out the internal images that make up their psychological structure in his or her relationship with the therapist, known as the transference (the transference of internal images and beliefs onto the current experience that the patient is having).

Helping the patient get to know the repertoire of images that make up his mind—his internal world—can help him or her better adjust these images to the world around him. This process can lead to a decrease in depressive and anxious feelings and more successful experiences in personal relations and work achievement.

View these PDFs for more info:

Kernberg OF, Yeomans FE, Clarkin JF & Levy KN: Transference Focused Psychotherapy: Overview and Update. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 89:601-620 (2008) (169K PDF)

Mark F. Lenzenweger, PhD, John F. Clarkin, PhD, Frank E. Yeomans, MD, Otto F. Kernberg, MD, and Kenneth N. Levy, PhD: Refining the Borderline Personality Disorder Phenotype through Finite Mixture Modeling: Implications for Classification. Journal of Personality Disorders, 22(4), 313?331, 2008 . 2008 (91K PDF)

Levy KL, Clarkin JF, Yeomans FE, Scott LN, Wasserman RH, Kernberg OF: The Mechanisms of Change in the Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder with Transference Focused Psychotherapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(4), 481-502 (2006). (191K PDF)

Frank E. Yeomans, MD, PhD: Transference-Focused Psychotherapy: An Evidence-based Psychodynamic Therapy for BPD, April 2008 (688K PowerPoint presentation)