Dear Dr. Dombeck,
I read your answer to the client who was furious at her therapist for not informing her about erotic transference. I, too, am in this painful place. However, in my case there has been some countertransference and we nearly took our various transferences to the bedroom, i.e., suggestion was made, then suddenly relationship was terminated (I got stood up on that very day). This is several months ago, but I’m heartbroken, confused and feel like Tom Hanks in the movie Cast Away when his beloved Wilson is lost at sea. I have borderline personality issues and was wondering if transference plays a different role in my situation? My former therapist has firmly rejected discussing it with me.
Thank you so much, M from Scandinavia
- Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
- Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
- Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
- No correspondence takes place.
- No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
- Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
This is Dr. Schwartz speaking for Dr. Dombeck:
It is not that transference plays a role because you have borderline features because transference is always present. It is also not unusual for erotic transference to be present. What is very concerning about your therapist is that he came very close to acting on his countertransference feeling for you.
However, I think it might be easier to speak in plain terms rather than the language of transference. Patients and therapists have feelings for each other. There is nothing unusual about the fact that patients and therapists are mutually attracted. Psychotherapy involves two people in a real relationship. While it is true that past history exerts its influence on this and all relationships, it does not diminish the fact that the dynamic forces in the office are very real and powerful. This is what makes psychotherapy move forward. In the kind of psychotherapy I’m referring to it is the here and now that is most important but without ignoring the past. In other words, it is not necessary to translate dynamic forces and past influences into psychoanalytic terms. Doing that dismisses the importance of what is happening at the present moment. Speaking of her own psychotherapy in a post graduate training class that she ran, Elizabeth Thorn PhD, one of the great psychologists and psychoanalysts of the past, stated, all she knew at the time of her therapy was that she loved and wanted her therapist. Of course, that became part of the work of her therapy.
Unfortunately, you therapist lost his objectivity by surrendering to his own erotic impulses towards you. I am guessing that your former therapist will no longer speak to you out of his own feelings of shame and wrong doing, or almost wrong doing. The problem is not that a patient has powerful feelings of love, hate, admiration and other feelings towards the therapist, but that the therapist acts upon those feelings. One aspect of the therapist’s job is to protect the patient by not exploiting his or her vulnerability.
It is understandable that you feel heartbroken. It is understandable if you discover your angry feelings towards him for mishandling things. However, it is better for you to move on in your own treatment by finding someone who is much better trained and who has the skills necessary to help you avoid these problems in the future.
Best of Luck