Projective identification is a situation were the 'recipient' of a projection is subsequently 'coerced' by the projector to embrace the projection. An example, given by Goldstein 1991, is of a man who wishes to rid himself of his chronic anxiety and so projects it onto his partner. Then comes the crucial bit; he has a stong tendancy, when communicating with his partner, to leave out vital pieces of information. This frequently leads her to become truly anxious!
This is a different scenario to one in which she has become confluent with him.The defining element is the interpersonal interaction between projector and recipient - the 'coercion' - projection alone being intrapsychic.
In the therapy situation, as in life, the client will usually be unaware of the methods he employs to pressure the therapist to take on the projection. An example might be a clients constant insistance that the therapist is angry leading to the therapist becoming genuinely angry where once was peace and tranquility.
Another example would be clients who leave their therapists feeling confused and impotent. This example also points to the potential for therapist's to deny the true extent of their own responsability - the therapist needs to be aware and honest enough to know if emerging feelings can really be attributed to projective identification and not the therapist's own unfinished business.
If anyone wants to make a wild guess on who has been researching projective identification for the last couple of weeks..........
W.N.Goldstein (1991) 'Clarification of Projective' Identification, American Journal of Psychiatry, February.
Frank-M. Staemmler (1993) 'Projective Identification in Gestalt Therapy with Severely Impaired Clients', British Gestalt Journal, Vol 2.