Jill Solomon (2012) Character will Out: Supervision, Personal Analysis and Control Case in a Psychoanalytic Training


This study investigated advanced analytic candidates and the nature of their relationship to their training analyst, control supervisor and control patient.   Specifically, focus was on the candidates’ interaction with these three key figures as these dyads form the primary clinical training in psychoanalytic institutes.

Ten candidates from two different psychoanalytic institutes (six from Institute A and four from Institute B) were interviewed three times over the course of one year.   Repetitive patterns of relating and fluctuations in transference manifestations were compared and contrasted across the three dyads, the ten participants, as well as the two Institutes.  Particular attention was paid to the interconnectedness of the three relationships since the candidate was the constant.

The results strongly suggest that the candidate’s central conflict was unconsciously present in all three relationships. The candidate’s conflict consisted of two contrasting poles, one pole consciously acknowledged and one disavowed and projected into another.   This conflict formed the basis of the transference relationship to both the training analyst and the control supervisor and was expressed through two distinct transference patterns: heterogeneous and homogeneous.  The seven candidates with heterogeneous transferences divided positive and negative feelings between the analyst and the supervisor.  The three candidates in the homogeneous group had the same transference to both.  

Furthermore, the control patient embodied one pole of the central conflict, usually the aspect of the conflict that was disavowed by the candidate.  Patient selection appeared linked to the unconscious resonance between candidate and patient.

The findings are especially relevant for supervision, particularly the teach/treat debate.  Teach/treat is the tension in the supervision between whether the supervisor should just teach or involve themselves in the  countertransference dilemmas’ of the candidate due to unresolved character issues.  This has been an ongoing debate in the supervision literature for decades.  This study falls soundly on the side of “treat” in the teach/treat debate.

The candidate, in part, brings the control patient to supervision as a representative of the disavowed part of their conflict.  At the same time, the candidate unconsciously enlists the supervisor in a unique transference relationship reflective of the candidate’s central conflict.  The candidate makes available to the supervisor the opportunity to work through the central conflict via the transference relationship while also adding support to the training analysis.