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Furious That My Therapist Didn't Warn Me About Erotic Transference

Question:

Dearest Doctor, I am in CBT for (severe) PTSD. It has been about 6 months now. The reason I write to you today is that I would like your help in dealing with this anger I have building with regard to the mental health profession. A bit of background may be helpful I am a 37 y/o femme. I was raised by the worst kind of parents and left for neglect by a sadist who in turn did whatever he wanted to me for 4 of the very crucial formative years of my life. Just imagine the worst kinds of horror a child can endure and still be alive, and you’ve got a good handle on what I experienced. I am striving and winning and getting my power back with the help of the good doctors at the university outpatient clinic Drug therapy, as in Gabapentin, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, plus the CBT therapy for the PTSD. Along with the PTSD, I also have Major Depressive Disorder, Social Phobia, Eating disorder, Dissociative Disorder, Depersonalization Disorder, very high anxiety, and my favorite thing in the world is fantasizing about my death, destruction and early demise (high suicidal ideation, not suicidal though). Well, as hell would have it I have fallen furiously in love with my therapist to the point of shear and utter agony. We are just now starting to work at it as of last week. What angers me to no end, is that I wish someone would have warned me about this erotic transference business, so I could have been a little more prepared for this going from the frying pan into the fire tactic. I mean, this is like the cure being (almost) worse than the disease! I have been doing a LOT of research into transference and it seems to me that I have all of the earmarks of a person who would fall hard for her therapist and consequently have to endure this torture. Am I correct in feeling a bit tricked by all this? I mean the Whole process has kinda been like one hall of mirrors after the other. Thanks, Devorah. PS I’m in it for the duration regardless.

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Answer:

Many people don’t realize what psychotherapy involves at the outset of their participation in therapy. Therapy is often portrayed as a place where you basically are supported by your therapist, and that can happen, but if the therapist is good and it is appropriate for you to do emotional work, you’re going to be asked to do emotional work. That work can be painful, and sometimes it can feel like doing the work is harder than just enduring the problems that have driven you into therapy. A good therapist will spend a good part of the first or second session going through a process called informed consent, during which the nature of the therapy setting and some of the risks of participating in therapy are explained. However, it is one thing to talk about these things and another to experience them emotionally. Despite the best informed consent, it is not always possible to know what you’re getting into until your in it.

I’m trying to think if I’ve ever seen a therapist’s informed consent paperwork which described the possibility of erotic transference (or simply developing a crush on your therapist), and I’m drawing a blank. Certainly in my limited experience this is not the sort of thing I’ve been encouraged to warn patients about. Most of the time it is a non-issue, for one thing. For another thing, when it does occur, it is not necessarily a bad thing from the therapist’s point of view. Let me explain this a little because this is not because the therapist is trying to be cruel. When you develop a crush or a transference on your therapist what you are doing is acting out a wish or fantasy about a perfect love and what that might be like. This is good because that fantasy then becomes available for therapeutic discussion and the hungers that drive the crush can be talked about and potentially defused or redirected in a more conscious and able-to-be-satisfied manner.

Though I don’t think that a therapy patient who is forewarned about the possibility that they might fall in love with their therapist will necessarily be able to stop the process from happening or make it less painful when it does occur, on reflection I do think that it is a good idea for therapists to warn their new patients about this possibility as part of their informed consent process. It is always good to give informed consent.

You probably already know this intellectually at least, but it is worth discussing anyway. A therapist only appears to be an ideal lover. This is because of how the therapist does her job by focusing all of her attention towards her patient without disclosing any of her own personal difficulties. The effect is for the therapist to take on the aura of a good nurturing parent, and who wouldn’t fall in love with such a loving presence?

I want to emphasize that the purpose of this nurturing therapeutic energy and presence is not to deceive anyone or seduce them but simply to facilitate the therapy process. The same nurturing behavior that causes the risk of a crush also helps people to relax their guard and allow themselves to talk about what is bothering them, confident that they will be taken seriously and that their safety will be respected and preserved. It is probably not possible to facilitate the one without risking the other.

I get it that you are angry at your therapist and at the therapy profession for not warning you better. I can empathize with the agony of an unrequited crush/love/transference. I also think that blaming your therapist is only half of what has happened here. The feelings that are happening are your feelings. They were not put into your head and heart by your therapist, but rather occurred spontaneously as you got to know your therapist. To deny your role in this crush occurring is to only see half the story. It would suggest to me that you are seeing yourself at the mercy of external forces you cannot control (which fits actually quite well with your abuse history). Though the crush is painful, it also provides a vehicle for you to explore this feeling of being a victim of external forces, which itself may be a transference. It was the case in your past, but it is not the case now with your therapist. Part of the learning that maybe needs to occur is to help you learn how you are actually able to influence your situation; that you aren’t as passive as you may think you are.

To summarize, my advice is to look for what the crush/transference can help you to learn about yourself rather than to focus on how much it hurts. Think of it maybe as a growing pain. I hope this response is helpful to you, and wish you good luck in finding your way through this painful circumstance you’re in.

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Comments
  • Anonymous-1

    I am a woman who has been in treatment for pathological gambling for about 3 1/2 years and have turned my life around. In fact, my life is better now than I could have dreamed when I was in the depths of my addiction over 3 years ago.

    However, I, too, have developed a huge attraction to my male therapist who is slightly older than I. I am not angry it happened and believe that this is tha way many women (maybe men, too?) are set up emotionally. Why wouldn't I feel attracted to a male who accepts me, warts and all, and to whom I have revealed my deepest self?

    In fact, I think that the attraction, as painful and hopeless as it is, is what "hooked" me into doing the very hard work of changing my life. I had to choose to give up the escape of gambling and to trust my therapist when he said that there was a better way to live. Nothing will ever come of this attraction in terms of a personal relationship with my therapist and that is as it should be. He does everything he can to discourage any kind of dependency in clients.

    I have toyed with the idea of telling him of my feelings but have decided not to. He is a CBT therapist and heavy duty feelings are not his strongest point. He is best as helping me think rationally, which has helped me immensely in my recovery from addiction. Further, if I did tell him, our relationship would never be the same---the bell cannot be "unrung" as it were.

    Hopefully, these feelings of extreme attraction will diminish with time. He is starting to hint at termination and if I were not to be able to see him at all, it would be excruciating. I expect that as my life continues to expand from the extreme narrow focus of active addiction, my emotional energy will go elsewhere. (I guess I am hoping I will find a man to have a torrid relationship with so I can forget the therapist).

  • Anonymous-2

    Tell the therapist about the problem AND request that he transition you to a new therapist with whom you will have little chance of experiencing this again. (A therapist of a different age, sex, etc. to whom you would NOT be attracted.) Problem solved. But be honest with the therapist about this development. It is only fair to both of you. And all competent, ethical, professional therapists will know how to deal with this. It's their job!

  • Anonymous-3

    Reading other experiences with erotic transference, I felt compelled to write in about my own. If you’d asked me 6 months ago if I knew what erotic transference was, I would have said I had no idea. I guess I’d heard of the idea of falling in love with your therapist, but it sounded harmless, like a school girl crush.

    About a year ago I started psychotherapy to treat a specific disorder for a limited time period. I am in my 40’s and my therapist was a bit older, not conventionally good-looking, but charismatic and intellectually brilliant. Let me state that I do not fall in love often or easily. I am married and although there are significant problems, I’ve never been interested in another man sexually or romantically during the marriage.

    At our fourth session, I “fell in love” and it was positively magical. My feelings were unexpected, intense and euphoric. My happiness carried over to all aspects of my life, including progress on my initial disorder. During the remaining sessions, I just adored being in this man’s presence. I loved looking at him, listening to him, when I was away I fantasized about him all the time. But it wasn’t just a sexual attraction. It felt deep and spiritual and special – as if I’d finally met my soul mate. I must sound so naïve, but I really had no idea that I was experiencing a known psychological phenomenon.

    Toward the end of our limited number of sessions, I began to get anxious at the thought of therapy ending. Under the delusion that this might turn into a romantic relationship, I was afraid to tell him about the intensity of my feelings, and I found myself getting jealous and offended easily. It felt like he was starting to play games with me and may have been dealing with his own counter-transference issues. I finally concluded that any feelings on his part must be imagined, the situation was becoming unhealthy, and it was safer to just leave without discussion.

    Then the agony began. Not seeing him every week was one of the most excruciatingly painful adjustments I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. I felt I couldn’t live without him. Nothing seemed important any more. I finally told him over the phone in a resentful way of my feelings for him and how painful it had been for me. I was obviously angry that transference had never been discussed and although I didn’t explicitly tell him during therapy, it had to be very obvious to him from my behavior. His reaction veered from unsympathetic to sincere sadness at hurting me. He also didn’t encourage me to talk further and the unspoken rejection was unbearable. I got off the phone quickly, feeling worse than when I’d started. I tried working with another therapist who seemed unsympathetic and said the feelings sounded adolescent. Whatever I learned about this has been over the internet and it was very comforting to hear this was a rather common phenomenon. I’m not sure how often it happens, but you would think the mental health profession would be more adept at dealing with it and helping patients work through the feelings in a supportive manner. I do feel I will never enter therapy again. I will never allow someone who does not have a personal interest in my wellbeing have that kind of control over my emotions. In my case, the cure was definitely worse that the initial disease.

    I believe that Dr. Dombeck’s advice to put this experience into a more positive light and not focus on the hurt is a good one. That is what I am trying to do every day.

  • Stan

    Why is it so difficult for a person in therapy to talk to the therapist about his/her feelings? I was taught that the primary therapeutic piece of therapy is the "relationship." How that relationship develops is always "grist for the mill." By not discussing your feelings with the therapist (even a CBT therapist) you are depriving yourself, and often the therapist (though it's not your job to do anything "for" the therapist) an opportunity to grow. What is therapy if not a safe place to learn to do things differently?

    Editor's Note: What you describe is true, and yet it is nevertheless very difficult for many people to trust that the therapist will not let them down (based on past experiences of being let down). Trust is an alien concept to someone who has never experienced it before (or experienced it only intermittantly). When that is the case, it takes longer to develop.

  • Anonymous-4

    I, who thought I had a healthy basic working knowledge of transference/counter transference, boundaries, projection etc. etc. just learned a new term (and was initially frightened by it)-EROTIC transference. That word in itself makes it sound sooo taboo (as if transference/counter transference in most circles wasn't taboo enough) After a bit of introspection, reading a little and a few lively debates I have to say this...All erotic transference is, in my mind, now that I've looked long and hard at it, is the feeling in most cases, of a healthy LOVE, and we, the client, are responding to what we perceive as love and love can be quite healing when it is just quietly accepted for what it is and not forced to be something its not, its only when boundaries are VIOLATED (note I do not use the term CROSSED here as boundaries are often adjusted, redefined and negotiated to suit the needs and safety of both parties)-and I have to interject if you think your therapist doesn't have needs you are soooo wrong, its just that their needs, be them emotional or physical, have been schooled to remain in the background at least while with the client and then if they have any "inappropriate thoughts" then they get to go to "confession" with a clinical supervisor, instructor or fellow shrink and tune up their own "issues n perspectives"-which just puts more un need mystery into the therapeutic relationship IMHO and can make the relationship seem even more one sided but seems to be a necessary evil for obvious reasons-i.e....... "the don't feed the animals" sign/stigma that most all of us clients wear in bright neon lights, as the "animals may bite". Love comes from feeling like your getting that almighty exquisite and hard to find unconditional something/acceptance from your therapist (or auto repair guy, or husband or dentist or gas station clerk for that matter) and if it is to be a positive healing and helpful interaction you SHOULD feel "loved/safe/protected" you should be provided a nurturing confine in which to grow and explore under a watchful eye and guiding hand...and if you are not getting that or some sort of intense connection and understanding out of therapy then its time for the yellow pages. And bravo to the therapists who are able to provide that and give that of themselves! How exhausting that can become so if you have one that cares for you with sincerity, buckle in and hang on. There is nothing evil or demoralizing to attaching to what we perceive as the stronger person/protective figure if it give us legs to roam down our own paths. Perhaps I've sent too much time in a farm setting watching baby animals of all different species but they all do the same thing in different ways, they are born, they are scared and unsure and hungry, they stick close to mom, they grow, they explore they wander, they get scared and run back to mom for more nurturing n milk, sometimes mom will fret over them and call to them and warn them, sometimes mom will discipline them and/or run them off to have grow up/alone time and but still keep a watchful eye from the distance and sometimes mom will charge whatever is intent on attacking baby and if they are stupid enough to not heed moms lesson and go get themselves hung up in a fences again and again, mom will eventually leave them as fodder for the buzzards so its best to not to try to cross fences no matter how playful u feel that day (boundaries) and wait for a gate to be opened and to be invited or led out safely if you want to live unscarred (remain in therapy with that particular therapist) and finally ne day the critter is mature and tho still enjoys the company of its mother the adult baby CHOOSES to be with its mom but doesn't NEED it anymore. Only under the context of "[psychology or psycho therapy does transference/erotic transferable take on against mystery/taboo feel, and I've always found that interesting. Only priests and gurus share the same honor. Why? Because the APA and the Trial Lawyers Assoc, says they are UNTOUCHABLE and no friendship or relationship can be pursued outside of the therapeutic restraints. Sadly this had led to the makings of some very cold, callous and paranoid therapists who live in fear of their pts and med mal claims. Ya, I know, not very therapeutic! You can flirt with your mailman, the cop down the road or play grab ass with the cable guy but not your shrink. Why? Because given u have a decent shrink the relationship can be very very intense and intimate, you are letting this person fondle your warm gooey innards and your dirty undies all at the same time while you sit there and see them glowing angelic in their squeaky white Joe boxers. But what one who is blinded with goo goo aka erotic trans. eyes often doesn't see are 2 things. One the word CANT...know it or not CANT has been pounded in to your head, you CANT HAVE your therapist and your therapist CANT have you. Ya tell that one to a diabetic! Cant have candy?? Ya I don't know a diabetic who doesn't sneak a piece. Take the word CANT out of the equation and I bet a dime to a dollar u see your therapist in a whole new light and your probably wouldn't like what you saw, at least not as a life partner or whatever other kind of fantasy you are entertaining, then again, you might and in some cases who knows it might work out, but the odds are against that. But my point is if you tool the word CANT out of the picture, sometimes it would evolve into a real relationship and other times one or both parties would go screaming off into the dead of night saying NO WAY IN HELL. But what is often forgotten (and I write this as a woman client in relation to a male therapist. tho I know this happens the other way around as well) is that that the man probably got into psychology a he was working on his own or a family members issues-a majority of psych majors come from this kind of background, and when he leaves his office he is as human as the rest of is, he assuredly has his own unresolved issues and scars and if he leads u to believe otherwise, that he is not vulnerable and that he walks on water as well-RUN. I guarantee you he snores, drools, farts and has good and bad days in his own life and personal relationships and even uses toilet paper. He isn't the almighty glued together person as you see him or believe him or want him or need him to be, he might be very well mastered at things, and gifted at leading you on your path and extremely talented at hiding things that don't need to be shared in the therapeutic relationship as it would just make you see him as human which might in fact ruin the trust factor that is needed in certain situations, but he's miles from perfect. As I write this I'm not sitting on some pedestal, for I to am and have been in therapy off and on for years for GAD, PD, PTSD, depression and Im sure a few other neurotic things, and am in therapy at the present time. I've had a SLEW of bad therapist, that I've run from within the first few sessions and several that I've attached to strongly and have a few therapist that I know and am friends with outside of the realm of a therapeutic setting.

    In therapy I have had the touchy feely type and the hide behind a desk type. I do best with touchy feely and warm fuzzy's, in real life as well as in therapy. Even at 40 something there is a very wounded very needy scared kid that needs nurtured-I think most all of us own one of those inside of us to some degree and if you are one of the lucky ones with a decent therapist who can work with both you the adult and you the kid and still see you as a whole then you are blessed and you're GOING to feel attachment to the person who sees you this way-its not far removed from the definition of a romantic relationship where both the child and adult are intimately shared with partner-the child wants to hug and hold and cling and feel safe and the adult responds the way adults do to the opposite sex that they find attractive on some level and that is with feelings of want and desire. I do have to disagree with the "confessions to your therapist of your feelings as grist for the mill". I have found myself in intense therapeutic situations where I was held to the chest or on a lap of a therapist (who if I passed in the real world wouldn't have even turned my head to look at as a [potential sexual partner) and the tears flowed and the touches were soothing, only to leave the office and find that I was "turned on". At first I was ashamed, mortified, that biologically I had reacted this way. Then after more insight I realize that that is a 2 way street and that even male therapists will "twitch n twinge and become aroused" given the right stimulation (which can be just cerebral) and tho I've NEVER grabbed my therapists manhood I've been aware of a bulge before-I've learned-or at least I see it as something, that not acted upon, its rather a high confinement and just makes the bonding stronger and sharing easier. Lets get real, ever have one of those dates from hell where the small talk was small and you wanted to run for the door, verses the one where you r all squirmy and horny and hanging on every world all while thinking how much you wanted to "get tot he good part". Which date do you think leads to more productive communication and intimacy?? But I think confessing or discussing this with the therapist or the therapist saying anything to his client about his feelings, useful or productive and could actually drive a wedge and fearful distance in what was a working and intimate relationship.the grist for the mill as it was put could choke up the cog wheels. If someone is stalking their shrink, thinking of doing such or getting nothing more out of the session than feeling all lustful and not hearing a word the therapist is saying then something is waaay wrong and its time to run or look long and hard at some deeper underlying issues. Given the reason the client is in therapy is not to do with sexual natured problems I would say-having been the aroused client more than once in my life, if someone twitches and twinges and gets aroused every now and again and is still making progress (which most of what I've read here says yall seem to be progressing) then no harm no foul and no confession needed. If being made to feel loved and cared about and nurtured is going to lead to nice normal human biological reactions on top of horizons being expanded and a productive therapeutic exp-why not enjoy the feelings as long as they are kept in perspective, and I don't just mean in the perspective of boundaries but in the big picture of why your are having them and why more likely that not your therapist may be having some too and utilizing them to become closer and more open and more trusting?? This can apply to BOTH erotic trans. and romantic love! If I could trade in my PTSD and panic attracks for orgasms or warm fuzzy feelings believe me Id be driving off the lot so fast with my new car and basket of toys for my new car, it wouldn't be funny. )

  • Anonymous-5

    I posted the transference account from May 8 and would like to respond back. I realize that I made a huge mistake by not discussing feelings with my therapist while still in therapy. I accept responsibility for much of the pain that I felt and am still feeling. But you must understand that while in an overpowering state of lovesickness, it was difficult to initiate a conversation that would very likely break my heart in two. I also thought I'd be able to cope once I left I had no inkling of the level of distress I would experience.

    I do believe that had I been warned in advance of the possibility of erotic transference, it would not have come as such a shock and would have given me a comfort level or starting point to speak with him. I do believe that it should be included in a therapist's informed consent, if only to make it easier/more acceptable for the patient to bring it up should it occur. It's not the easiest thing in the world to admit to someone (albeit a therapist) that you've fallen in love with him.

  • Carol

    I posted the April 22 comment about having "fallen for" my CBT therapist.

    I have a couple of responses to others comments:

    1) To Stan--I am very open about my feelings but expressing extreme affection to one's therapist is far, far more intimate admission than anothing else I could possibly say.

    2) To the person who said, just enjoy the feelings: There is mostly pain involved in such one-sided affection.

    3) I did tell my therapist, which did make the sexual attraction wane for me but the desire to be nurtured by him as a father figure is just as strong if not stronger. I don't believe he has any idea how to help me resolve these feelings since he says I am the ONLY client he has ever had who came back after admitting strong feelings like this for him. So telling the therapist is no miracle cure, unfortunately. In fact, I think my admission may have scared him into putting even more walls up between us than he already has, although I would never act inappropriately towards him.

    Given that my therapist is going to terminate me regardless, there is no way around this pain except to feel it and hope (and pray) it passes naturally as emotions fully felt are apt to. **sigh**

  • Confused Chloe (Northern Star)

    My therapist and i are about the same age and our daughters attend the same school. My husband and i started seeing him to help our VERY ADHD daugter after going to 6 other therapists. He has turned our lives around. Later, i started seeing him on my own just a little to discuss my marriage and how we had grown apart as family therapy. He tells me how fascinating i am and asked me how aware i was of my physical beauty in session when discussing how intimidating i was.... I found out just a few months ago that he is undergoing a nasty divorce and his wife left him for someone else. I am metabolically attracted to him because he is so incredibly intelligent and unique in his approach. I really want to talk to him about it. He has often commented on my looks, my intelligence and wants me to open up emotionally in sessions. He tears up sometimes when i talk about my family. My marriage is in turmoil.... What should i do and what is he feeling? Could we have any relationship since he was technically my daughter's therapists but she also uses another on as well?

  • Catmom

    I have read extensively about this subject and the cold truth is that this "therapist" is being completely unethical in using his client (you) to get his own needs met. You are probably hooked in too much emotionally and want to escape your faltering marriage too much to listen but my advice is: GET OUT NOW before you cause consequences you will regret for many years to come.

    By the way, I totally understand how emotionally difficult this would be for you. I "fell for" my therapist and he has never been inappropriate with me. The pain is so real.

  • CHloe

    I am an intelligent women who has always been loyal to partners. I currently have been married for over a decade with a few children. My therapist has daughters at the same school and he in fact worked with one of my own daughters early in the year. As the year has progressed he and i have become very close. We talk about therapy for me a great deal and he relates my issues to many of his own which seems appropriate. He discusses details of his wifes infidelity and their divorce with me often. He mentions my looks and intelligence a greeat deal too. I depend on him very much and like his personality. He is not at all intimidating to me and in fact i think maybe i intemidate him more. He says so many things about my appearance and my mind and my ability in business. Perhaps he is building up my self esteem as an ADHD adult who is new to this discovery. I have discussed my marriage with him and the many problems i am having coming to terms with the fact that the marriage was cultivated before my discovery of ADHD and after children came along my needs totally changed. I couldnt take care of them and me and work effeciently. I cut my hours back and focused on kids only. Now that we have made so much progress with my daughter i feel that i can focus on myself some now which is long overdue. This man seems to feed off of my energy and frankly i feed off of his. Is this both transference and counter-transference? Should i discuss it with him. Can i be misreading it? HELP!!!

  • Chloe

    Thank you so much for your response to my attraction to my therapist. It amazes me the number of situations i have researched about this concept of attraction to therapist. I intellectually realize that this is likely because we have a man that is captive in listening to us for hours on end. The reality of living with this man would probably be similiar to that of our spouse. It is certainly a very deep feeling to be emotionally invested in someone. He is hurting because of his divorce and he shares this openly. We just seem to be so much alike and going through such similiar life realizations. it is difficult. He is brilliant and i love that he loves what he does. I realize that getting out is an option that is certianly fraught with the good of morality. The idea of not seeing him weekly and sharing with him and hearing him share is incredibility difficult for me to think about. How did you do this?

  • Catmom

    Chloe-

    I am in the process of terminating with my therapist because I have achieved the therapy goals that he can help me with. My self- esteem has improved enormously since I started seeing him, but he has NEVER remarked on my appearance or spoken of his own personal problems with his wife.

    It is COMPLETELY inappropriate for your therapist to be telling you of his marital problems. He is making a play for you, in my opinion.

    It has been excruciatingly painful to terminate with my therapist who maintains rock-solid boundaries. I can truly appreciate how agonizing it must be for you in your situation.

    If you continue down this road, the consequences and pain will be even worse for both you and your family. However, only you can choose to dig down deep in your character and resist the seduction of this very unethical therapist (in my opinion).

    I have cried many tears over my situation and it is a minor problem compared to yours. Remember, doing the right thing will hurt in the short run, but you will have long term self respect, which is truly priceless.

    Good luck in your decision. Catmom

  • Alastair

    I experienced this with my CBT Avril who I met back in 1993, I still thnk of her and knew I was in trouble, as soon as the therapy ended in 95. Its lwas ike an imprint of her was left in me, and has stayed with me to this day, I just kept seeing her lovely face smiling at me! at the end of the therapy, I couldn't stop thinking of her! she was so warm and accepting of me, I've heard the term "unconditional recognition" thats what it is, you want to hang on to that, I felt trully in love, erotic tranferance or romantic love i dont know? I was always the perfect patient/client of course, I tried to discuss the subject by saying i felt emotionally attached just before the therapy ended but her response was "oh you shouldn't have said that" clearly unprepared, untrained, unable to give me the closure i trully needed. i think she was so genuine and caring but was unable to address this issue, but all she was guilty of was to try and meet my needs theraputically during the tharapy which she did, I have made some progress by visualising, how incompitant and useless her response was, and to imagine the "nitty gritty" of how little she must have thought of me (romantically or as a potential partner) in reality, and to try and deconstruct my perfect image of her. Ths has helped but is not perfect and I do occaisionally think of her.

    this is the best i can come up with for the moment on this issue!

    it has been really good to read these comments, I hope I can continue to move on!

  • Chloe

    I know this is a no no discussion but i have to ask it. I realize there are rules. What if you know the therapist in another capacity and the therapist is not yours but your child's therapist and has done parent coaching with you. Can anyone discuss this openly with out the red tape conflicts and share a real life story with me?

    Editor's Note: this type of relationship is frowned upon because it is seen as an exploitive (on the part of the therapist) dual relationship. However, it does happen from time to time. It's fine to talk about it, and it will be interesting to learn what people's experiences have been. As is the case with all relationships, it is not possible to judge compatibility until the relationship has gone on for a while. I'd be especially interested to learn about the disposition of such relationships that have endured for many years, and would want to know about how roles within the relationship may have changed over time from the initial position of inequality.

  • Anne Onymous

    I am a 36 YO gay woman, who has been seeing her (female) therapist for 18 months now. I realised after about 6 wks of seeing my therapist that I was experiencing an erotic transference. This happened to me before with a previous therapist and a previous psychiatrist (both female), although I never told them and thought they would be disgusted if I ever did discuss it.

    When I first met my current therapist, I was releived that she was 20 years older than me, as I thought that I would therefore have no chance of having any sexual feelings for her. How wrong was I! It didn't take long for the old feelings that I had experienced before to re-emerge.

    After much angst, I recently admitted my feelings to her. I was so scared of doing this (in a way it seemed even worse, as she was not gay herself and I was frightened she would be repulsed by the idea of being fancied by another woman). I was also frightened of the inevitable rejection (I was petty realistic about the fact that my feelings were not recipricated, although I preferred not to acknowledge this for real). She was so understanding about it and our relationship grew even stronger. For a while, the feelings went a way, but they come back from time-to-time.

    I haven't yet got to the point where I can discuss this in more detail with her (I feel I need to), as like others that have written in, the reality of truly accepting that there is no possibility of the relationship ever going any further is a very frightening prospect. At the same time though, I am very glad that it will not - for this would not be good and I wonder in reality whether I would really want it to anyway. Sometimes things are a lot safer in a fantasy world, where the other person can remain idealised and does not disappoint. The important thing though is why these feelings are as they are it is important to explore this.

    In telling your therapist and discussing it with him/her they will - if they are any good - hold some of issues/feelings for you and (like the caring mother/father) help you explore the aspects that are more frightening/confusing, so that you may learn, understand and move on/develop.

    It is so hard to cope/deal with transference/erotic transference, but always understand that you are not alone and you are not a freak for having these feelings (I used to think I was). If your therapist is any good, they will listen to you and help you understand the underlying issues behind these feelings.

    I am lucky to have a very experienced and understanding therapist, who is really helping me understand myself and cope with 'life' (although sometimes it is very hard for me). She listened to me and patiently waited by my side when I struggled to tell her of my feelings she made me feel so comfortable talking about it (although I have yet to discuss it with her further) and I felt such a weight off my shoulders afterwards. She did not make me feel disgusting or dirty (much to my relief) and is indeed helping me see that loving feelings are natural and not a bad thing. Telling her removed such an obstacle from between us.

    My therapist is very dedicated to her work and patients and, whilst she is not perfect, we have been able to create a forum where it is ok for me to tell her what I am feeling (I mean really feeling), although this is quite a struggle for me at times.

    I read how people had written about their confusion as to their therapist's actions/intentions and whether there was some counter-transference going on. I suppose in some instances there may be (although I hope that these would never be acted upon), but in the majority of cases I expect it is just wishful thinking on the part of the client/patient. In most sessions, my therapist and I sit side-by-side on the couch - it took us a while to find this position, but it is one I (and I hope she too) is/am very comfortable with. I often hold her hand and/or rest my head against her she sometimes puts her arm around me and holds me close we hug frequently and warmly and sometimes she holds my head to her and rests her chin in my hair. I bet some of you are wondering as to her motives/reasons for doing this....? I can tell you what her reasons are: she cares and is not afraid to show it. By showing it and allowing me to do the same, we have a deep level of relationship. At no time have I ever thought her intentions have been anything different other than genuine care for her patient and a wish to heal. I am so lucky to be in such capable and professional hands.

    It sounds like we have an idyllic patient/therapist relationship...? We don't - it is just like any other: I frequently get angry with her and feel rejected and all the usual stuff, but she helps me explore this and to understand -not that that seems to make it any easier at the moment - but I am hoping (and believing) that one day it will.

    Try and be honest with your therapist and to talk about your feelings - I know it is hard, but it is so worth it in the long run. I feel such a hypocrite saying all this, as it is something I struggle with so much myself, so please don't think I am the 'perfect' patient: I'm not.

    If your therapist consitently doesn't feel 'right', then change them - but don't give up on the therapy. Therapists are all very different in their approach and it is a very personal thing. I am lucky to have (eventually) found such a good fit - I thought I never would - so keep trying: the right person IS out there.

    Good luck and best wishes to you all

    Anne

  • Chloe

    Ann,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. It is such a difficult battle. To have the emotional relationship and self disclosure. The natural expectation is to move to another level but the reality is so harsh. My therapist I believe struggles with this too since our relationship has made a full circle with children at the same school attending many of the same social events. He is not my therapist but my daughters. I do my parent coaching with him and we end up disussing ourselves in those conversations. Does this change the rules at all?

    Thank you so much and i wish you luck in your therapy. It sounds as if you have a relationship that gives you a great deal of hope and promise for the future. Hang in there and if you think of anything else that may help me please share.

  • NOXIE

    I do not know if this would pose a different scenerio if you are not the actual patient. If he is your daughter's therapist this may be a little different if the relationship was founded as mutual parents at a school. Anyone else know about this type of situation?

    I am interested in knowing this as well from a different perspective.

  • Anne Onymous

    Dear Chloe

    You asked if the rules are different if it is your daughter's therapist and not your own therapist....

    I don't know if legal things re:therapy are different here in the UK to in the US, but morally I am pretty certain my therapist wouldn't start an intimate relationship with my father for instance. The point being this: your relationship with your therapist (IMHO) should be unique in your life ie. the relationship with a therapist is a very special and unique one - you see them as only your therapist and no one else. This is what enables the boundaries to be so secure and as a result for the place within to be one of great safety and total neutrality from within which you are able to explore, safe in the knowledge that your therapist will catch you if you fall.

    If you start a relationship with your daughter's therapist he will no longer be that unique person in her life that he needs to be. You also run the risk that she may feel her trust has been violated and her space intruded. The thing is this: when one sees a therapist, generally speaking, the patient wishes to believe that he/she is unique to him/her and that she/he is the most significant person in the therapist's life. Obviously, no matter how caring the therapist, this is not true. Most people realise this, but do not wish to be reminded of it. If your daughter thinks you may be having a relationship with her therapist, she may feel second-best or rejected by him. In addition to this, she may begin to wonder what of her disclosures he has repeated to you, thus making her feel that she can trust no one (neither him, nor you) she may begin to feel very alone and isolated and this may well have repercussions in later life. Let me tell you a little about myself. A fairly similar thing happened to me: as a child, I was abused in every sense by my father. My GPs (doctors) were my Aunt and Uncle and both my sister and I were well aware that anything we said would go straight back to our parents. My Mother taught at my school, which I attended from the age of 3-18. It was a small, girl's independent school and everyone knew each other. I had severe behavioural problems (high intelligence, but very short attention span and extremely disruptive/attention seeking behaviour). All the teachers (I later learnt) knew there was something wrong, but didn't want to interfere, as my Mother was quite senior. It wasn't long before I was labelled 'A Bad Child'. As my school was in the centre of the city and all the local children in the village went to school there, I knew no one at home my neighbours were also relatives. I had no one to talk to no one who would believe me no one who wouldn't tell my parents.

    But I was a tough little thing and wrapped myself up in my own protective world. I used to sit for hours and hours on end, day after day, in the corner of my room, day after day, week after week and listen to my music through my headphones, dreaming that I was in another life, another existence. This went on for years and years and I am still very much like that now. In fact, in many respects, I have got worse. I am not a loner and have lots of friends, some of whom I have had since I was very young I have a loving and caring gilfriend, who is very supportive and understanding. But there is something inside me that is totally cut off from the world and unable to relate - the problem has got worse and worse as I've got older and it's really beginning to interfere with my life and my ability to work.

    I am worried that your daughter may feel something like this if you have a relationship with her therapist...? Please don't think I am judging you when I say this - I am not, I assure you :-) I am just offering words of support and understanding - I know how isolating these feelings of transference can be and how confusing and intense it can feel.

    You may be wondering then why I am in therapy?

    10 years ago, I had a brief course - 13 weeks - of Cognitve Analytic Therapy after a couple of lame suicide attempts during my final post graduate years at University. I was also seeing a Psychiatrist once a week for a two year period at that time. I had excrutiating erotic transferences for both my therapist and my psychiatrist (both female), but could never discuss it with them (they knew though I think). At the same time, I was in an abusive relationship with a man (having previously had a two year affair with a female ex-teacher from my school who was also a friend of my Mother's) and was incredibly confused about my sexuality. I never discussed my sexuality with either my therapist or my psychiatrist.

    In the UK, the National Health Service has a thing about dependency: it doesn't like it and actively discourages it. You are not 'allowed' to form an attachment to your therapist or psychiatrist and long term therapy is not looked upon as a favourable option (mainly on grounds of cost I think, but justified by psychological research no doubt). 13 weeks of CAT is all you (typically) get, then it's goodbye. Therapists etc are encouraged to prevent dependency and transference is often ignored. You can see why, in that environment, I didn't discuss my erotic transference with my therapist/psychiatrist all those years ago!!

    My 13wks of therapy ended and I had to say goodbye to my therapist - it hurt like hell. After a 3 month break, I was offered another course of therapy, but with a different therapist. I opted out (for several reasons, as work comitments meant I could not give the time). I went to see the new therapist only once when I did, I saw my previous therapist on the stairs on the way in and she just didn't even recognise/acknowledge me - that hurt like hell. It was such a significant moment for me, but she didn't even notice me.

    I was still seeing the psychiatrist, but then one day she announced that our next meeting would be the last, as she was moving to another area. I was devastated there was no preparation, no warning, nothing. I really, really struggled to cope over the coming months. Added to this, my GP emigrated and the NHS did not offer me a referral to another Psychiatrist (I think my previous one didn't give it the thought and because I had a new GP, she didn't realise what was going on). I was out there alone and damaged once more. But I was determined to cope and move on.

    Eventually things got better for me and I thought the CAT had sorted things out for me, then my Mother became ill and died suddenly: she was 65, I was 34. I was ok at first and gritted my teeth. Then one day, three months later, I woke up and was totally unable to face the world. My g/f dragged me to my GP, who immediately referred me to a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, who I saw the same day. This was back in November 2006.

    I have been seeing her (Christine) since then. Since May last year, I see her three times a week for 50mins a time. This time, I am paying, not the NHS, so it is up to me when the therapy ends. It is expensive ($800 a month), but well worth it. It is very hard - especially at the moment as I am under a lot of pressue at work, I no longer speak to my father since my Mother's death, and my sister is having marital problems too, but I know it will help in the long run.

    I told Christine about my erotic transference for her two months ago and, although at times it's been very hard and I have got very angry with her, it has made such a difference to our relationship. She was wonderfully understanding and accepting and, if anything, holds me even closer to her now, at times when I am upset or need comfort, than she ever did before. She has this marvellous way of making it absolutely clear that she really cares, yet at the same time, there is absolutely no way her intentions could be misconstrued: she cares for me deeply, but as a patient she respects me as a human being and I rspect her in the same way. Although we have our tense and angry moments, she makes her room a very safe place to be in and with her I feel well supported and understood.

    We have a very intense relationship - we email each other most days and I can call or text her whenever I want. Funnily enough though I don't usually - I know she is there for me if I need her, and that is enough (most of the time). She takes her work very seriously and I don't know of another therapist who gives so wholeheartedly and readily. The intensity is wholly driven by me - not her she is always calm and steady and professional - but not aloof in any way. I think this has helped create a very stable framework from within which we can work: one that I really feel comfortable in (and I hope she does too).

    It is not easy though - the intensity of feelings on my side is sometimes quite overwhelming - feelings of both love and anger towards her. But she always sits beside me, holding those feelings for me when it all gets too much, and we soon settle once more and continue with our work. As I said before, I am very lucky to have found such an experienced, professional, yet warm and caring therapist with whom I can relate to so well and have really begun to trust.

    We have a long way to go on our journey and I am really very scared. At the moment, I am struggling quite severly with life and am now finding it very difficult to work (I'm a Chartered Architect by the way and quite senior in my office, so I have a lot of work pressure). I have very, very low self-esteem and wonder how I have managed to get where I am in the world as I have so little ability. I think people feel sorry for me, that's how.

    Christine has been on vacation the last week, so this will be my first session in 10 days. I really, really struggled through the week and it was a contant battle not to attempt to self-harm. I got through it though - just - although I have had to stay off work for a few days. I go to see her again in an hour and I am frightened that I will dissassociate and then depart feeling isolated and abandoned. I need to find her there to night and I hope I will.

    I digressed somewhat and wrote rather a lot - apologies Chloe. I hope some of what I said is some use to you guys ad helps you feel you are not the only ones. I guess I needed to talk soo, sorry.

    Therapy is hard guys - but don't give up.

    I'm Anne by the way - I'm new here.

    Best wishes to you all

  • Anne Onymous

    In case anyone was wondering....

    I saw Christine tonight and she was really great, although I did feel myself getting angry towards her at the end - I think I was frightened of the session finishing and felt rejected and abandoned in my 'hour of need'. Even though I was feeling frightened on the way there, I felt this big smile on my face as soon as I pulled up on the drive (I think I couldn't wait to see her), and she was waiting inside for me and gave me a big hug when I got in. We sat together on the couch and I put my head on her shoulder and we hugged each other throughout the session. I cried a lot and was able to tell her just how rotten I had felt when she was away. I told her about my postings here too and she smiled.

    I felt pain though when we were discussing the transference issue and whether I really wanted a different/sexual sort of relationship with her or whether it was just in my head. She said to me, "Of course it could never happen". I know this, but I hate her saying it. It is so damning and final and, in a way so hurtful. I am sure you guys will know what I mean. It hurt too when we discussed earlier in the session how much she finds Mark Knopfler sexy (I had just been to see him in concert). I feel I need to discuss my feelings of hurt and rejection with her over this, but in doing so, I know it will make it even more final. It has to be done though...so I will try to be strong. Each time something really difficult like this comes up, I focus on how painful it is not to discuss it, as opposed to how much better I feel for having discussed things like this with her before, and that usually gives me the nudge (or shove rather) that I need to be able to address it with her. The positive things that follow from such disclosures are what help me stay focused.

    Strangely, as I left the session, I felt the need to ask her whether she would be there again on Wednesday (our next appointment). It was odd because of course she will!! But the child in me was showing I think the fear of abandonment and doubt....

    I hope what I have just said helps some of you guys to discuss your transference issues with your therapists....I would like to start a thread on this topic on the message forum (as I think that a more appropriate place than here), but when I tried to register it wouldn't send me an email with the activation code (as it had said it would). Would any of you guys know why? Moderator...can you tell me? Is anyone interested in participating in such a thread? I just feel it would be a safe and neutral place for some of us to discuss these issues....

    Best wishes to you all

    Anne

  • Chloe

    Ann,

    Thanks so much for your response. I so enjoyed reading it and contemplating all of the insight. I would like to say that it broke my heart to hear of your troubled childhood. I am so sorry because no child should have to endure that type of silence with no adult safe to share it with for help. My daughter is in therapy for her ADHD coupled with anxiety as a coborbid of the ADHD. She also has another therapist that she is getting help from as well. The reason i brought the other therapist in is because i wanted to transition her to the new one in case this situation became what it is.

    Please keep the faith and hang in there. You have been through more than most and and for this i can tell you are so strong and better equipped to deal with most anything now. DId you ever confront your father?

    I do not know what to do about my situation except for trying to first space out my appointments and then gradually get myself away. It will be so difficult and i hope that i have the strength to do it.

  • chloe

    We meet today after all of my input and contemplation from you all on this topic. I am at the point of either terminating treatment wtih this therapist or sharing my feelings about it with him. I know he feels the same way and is also fighting it. I understand it is hardest on the therapist when they feel this way because they fight it. He is going through a nasty divorce and we were sort of just friends because of our daughters before my daughter started therapy with him. I guess i am struggling with my reasons for considering sharing my feelings.... would it be to tempt him further or to open up this box so that we can work around it? I feel antagonized. HELP. I need support from you all who have been in this situation.

  • Anne Onymous

    Chloe

    I am sorry - it has been a busy week for me and I have not been on line much.

    I am sorry to hear how uncomfortable things have become for you and I truly understand your frustration - although your situation is slightly different to mine, in that your therapist/daughter's therapist has similar feelings for you too.

    I think you do need to talk to this guy about how you feel, but I am worried that that will give him the green light to cross the line, if he is feeling the same way about you. I hope you won't hate me for saying this, but I really hope he doesn't do this, as I think it would lead to much heartache for both of you. I am worried though about how you might feel if you terminate the relationship without having discussed how you feel and had you feelings heard. I am worried that this will be very painful for you.

    Life is so unfair, isn't it? I wish I could help you more - I will be here to listen to you though. I have started a thread on the message board entitled 'Transference/Erotic Transference' under the 'General Support' section - it would be so good to talk to you (and any others there). I had trouble registering for the message board - it took a week for the activation email to come through - so if you have not registered and try to and have similar problems, don't worry - the activation email comes through eventually!

    I am also thinking of starting a blog, so I can write about my experiences in therapy and my feelings, in the hope that this will help others feel that they are not the only ones. I am not sure people would want to read me droning on though.

    Chloe - I am there for you anytime and do so understand how you feel. It would be so good to hear from you on the message board (and anyone else too).

    My best wishes

    Anne

  • Anne Onymous

    Folks,

    I have started something which I have been thinking about doing for a while - a weblog about my experinces/feelings as I go through life. I hope it will be a help/support to people who are going through similar. If you would like to read it, you can find it at http://lifelovingtherapy.blogspot.com/

    My best wishes to you all

    Anne

  • chloe

    I have had a gut wrenching week. I met with him and he again complemented me in every way possible. I asked if he felt i needed to continue seeing him and he said absolutley. I told him only that i felt a little dependent on him and he barely even discussed it. Later, he readressed it after discussing some opportunities he and i may have in business together in research etc. He went on to tell me how with all of my family making these positive changes and my condition improving so much that he needed to warn me about the lonliness that accompanies it. .... I am so confused.

    He suggested setting up a play time for his daughter and mine and getting his daughter to help mine with her impulsive behaviors. He knew that we would both be attending the same country club over teh weekend whereby he is only a summer member and we are year round members therefore he is just now starting to go. He knew we were going at 1:00. We actually arrived at 1:30 and he was there with his daughters. Today he showed up and came right over and talked to me and some of my friends. Extremely friendly and told me about his observations of my daughter. Later, a women showed up and sat down right beside him. They seemed somewhat cozy but i couldnt tell if it was intimate or not. He encouraged my daughter to sit with them and talk. I went over to retrieve her and he introduced the women as his friend. I felt so pierced in the heart. He kept watching me all day... it was so obvious that i was nervous. I steered clear and hung out with other moms and swam with the kids and played. I tried to look as little as possible. Later, my husband arrived and the therapist was obviously very moved by this and unsure.... HE left almost immediately afterwards...> Keep in mind nothing physical has happened between us and we have never had a direct conversation about it. The comments about my physical appearance are apparent in every session> I tape my sessions (privately) so that i can listen again later and it is so obvious. Comments like.. what man wouldnt love to be with you etc.

    I cant decide if i should simply email and tell him how much i have enjoyed our sessions but i am ready to see a pscyiatrist to assist me with medicaiton changes (as an excuse) or just meet and tell him that i feel too possessive and uncomfortable with our seeing each other in all of these personal environments and would be more comfortable if i used someone else. HELP i am really upset and confused.

  • Anonymous-6

    Therapists and Counselors are under ethical and moral regulations and guidelines to refrain from causing harm to any client. If you feel unease about your therapist, or if there are things that are occuring in therapy that are leaving you puzzled, please research the Codes of Ethics and State Laws governing therapists in your state. One may be surprised to discover how many mental health professionals there are who do not follow the rules. Making phone calls or having your children play with his is a gross transgression of appropriate and professional behavior.
    It is the job of the therapist to maintain all boundaries, not yours.
    The very first and foremost rule is: DO NO HARM.

  • Chloe

    Thank you for your response however, I do not believe it is this easy. This therapist is NOT mine but my daughter's. She has two and he is one of the two. I have my own therapist for my own issues of anxiety. This therapist has a daughter with a disability that attend my three daughters school. It is a close knit very small community. It is impossible to not know someone in a certain professional arena particularly when your children have similiar conditions. I feel that this man is one of the best therapist in our small town that deals with special issues such as the one I have with my younger daughter. He is so knowledgeable. I believe that what is happening is that I am looking for the strength of someone to help me with my problems with my daughters and he is looking for someone to care about him and his children as his wife just turned her back on them. We knew each other before he started working with my daughter through church...

    The situation is:

    a) He is not my therapist but my daughters

    b) He is not someone in an office that i never knew before

    c) Both of his daughters and mine have been friends for a number of years however, they would be because of their similiar issues and again we are in a small town therefore, those of us that have children such as ours have to stick together...

    Does this give a clearer picture.... Now do you have any advice that may be useful???

  • Anonymous-1

    Pardon my bluntness but it sounds to me like you are determined to pursue the perceived pleasure of this relationship regardless of the consequences. One consequence will be the end of your marriage. Has this therapist that you say is your daughter's said that he is willing to leave his wife for you?

    How do you think this will make his children feel?

    Just because you are enjoying the attention you are getting from this man doesn't make what he is doing ethical in any way.

    I hope you found this "useful."

  • Chloe

    Hello, it is me Chloe again... Thank you for your opinion because I believe i needed it. Though it seems so easy in written words it has been gut wrenching for me personally. As i have previously posted he is not married as his wife left him and i believe this is the reason he is so vulnerable to our preexisting friendship. Part of his admiration for me is as mine is for him. I am involved in education and very community active for children with disabilities and adoptions. As a result, we both see each other as filling a starving need to have a partner that is supportive of our children. It has been a very lonely road but my daughter is finally doing much better and i am so incredibly hopeful.

    My marriage is in ruin but not over. I am trying but it is very difficult because we have been through many difficult situations with my daughters as well as deaths in the family. Emotionally he is unavailable but loves me very much. I love him too but more as a roommate and we have been married for 17 years. The entire situation has me in a stir because I have never cheated and to me these feelings are inappropriate but they do feel exhilerating even if nothing is pursued i have felt valued as an educated successful woman and it does feel good. Please any of you who have experienced this type of thing before please give me some support. Good or bad I need it because at times even the most honest people become confused and lost after living hell on earth for long enough. Have a good night all. I enjoy you very much.

  • Anonymous-1

    No one is saying that this is easy for you. Doing the right thing is rarely the easy thing. The right and wrong of this situation is obvious, though.

  • Katy

    I so completely understand the pain you feel about this situation. I didn't have half of the issues that you have endured but I know that when I began to feel the erotic transference for my therapist my troubles more than doubled.

    There have been times when I have felt so confused about what was going around in my head I wondered if I was actually going insane and I wonder why I started therapy. Once the erotic feelings began I felt trapped into my therapy. Wanting to run from the pain of it on top of everything else I was dealing with but needing to stay to sort out this newly developed dependancy and the intense transference mess.

    I think Dr. Dombeck is right to state that we of course are responsible for our own selves and our own feelings but I must admit that at times I have felt almost duped into a process (that I now know in my situation has been psychodynamic) that seemed to cause me more sadness and at a time when I thought I couldn't handle anymore as it already was.

    Empathy for our situation is all good and it helps but I'm not sure it can ever be really understood unless felt. Women do appear to be the most likely victim of this set of circumstances. It strikes me as more devestating and confusing than a crush. For me personally it has been a psychological confusion like I have never felt. A deep longing, like a crush in its madness but to a greater degree. I looked at my therapist and thought I don't understand. I don't fancy this man sitting in front of me but it appears not only am I to dream about you but I am to think of you every second (literally) of my waking day. I would read a book and be thinking of him, watching my daughter in her swimming lessons etc etc.. This went on for months. Thankfully things have improved.

    My counsellor did not warn me either and I sincerely wished I had known that this could occur. It wouldn't have changed it but it could have lessened my confusion and my extreme embarrassment. Do I tell? How do I say it? What do I say when I don't even understand it! Will he judge me? Laugh at me? Most frighteningly, will I scare him? Lose him? The power imbalance felt enormous and I believe that my depression deepened because of not understanding what was happening to me. It was an isolating and tormenting time. In my confusion I even had to strongly resist becoming self harming which I have not experienced since being a teenager and I believe only came about through my so called therapy..

    After all my complaining however I do want to pass on some hope. I do still have erotic thoughts about my therapist but the longing has passed. Talking it through is the key. Its so difficult but I want to tell other that it is expected and I hope for everyone else too that they have a sypmathetic therapist. I did at times feel like a hot potato which added to my confusion. At times although empathic, he didn't handle things so well. I could sense his fear of the situation and felt him backing away. I thought you want me to tell you exactly how I feel but now you seem to be building brick walls in front of me? Distancing me at a time when I was already afraid of my own self and feelings. But through all our difficulties I did feel his empathy and most importantly I felt his good intent.

    Ultimately I just do agree with the original poster and feel strongly that therapy should, without question, come with health warnings!

  • luna

    I too, have been struggling with my therapist retiring. Having been with her for 10years, (yes 10! )I am finding it so painful, even though she told me 6 months ago. She recently told me I had been overstepping boundries, as far as asking too many personal questions. She explained the therapist must be a blank slate for the client to concentrate on themselves, instead of the therapist. (I personally think knowing about the therapist, even to a small degree makes them more human and approchable. You know--- are they married, a mother, etc.) was so embarrassed that I had been so naive as to not know about this--I had never been informed--it would have made things so much easier. Anyway, I am wrapped up with her and feel like coming abandonment. Three more visits to wrap this up.We are exploring another therapist for me for OCD, PTSD and depression. Thanks for listening. Luna

  • kathleen

    I just happened upon this blog for the first time and read through everyone's stories and comments. I've been in therapy for five years with a man who has wonderfully appropriate boundaries and also a good understanding of transference and its benefits. The cornerstone of our therapy has been that it is natural to have needs and to express them. I have a strong marriage, so maybe that's why I don't have erotic transference, but I definitely wanted this man to be my father. When he got married to a woman who had two small children from another marriage, I wasn't jealous of her I was jealous of them! I do feel very uncomfortable with the blogs that describe a therapist who lets his or her own needs sabotage the potential therapeutic benefits of the transference. Even healthy transference hurts, but a good therapist is more than willing to work through it. In fact, I've found that admitting my dependence increases healthy intimacy with my therapist, rather than chasing him away.

    My thought is that it was the child in me who was wounded (I was the only child of two violent alcoholic parents), so it is the child who must attach and learn to trust in therapy. I think often underneath even erotic transference is simply a child's dependency needs that have been sexualized by the adult. I will admit though, that even childlike dependency was painful at times. I couldn't have what I thought I wanted... my therapist to treat me like his child. But the wanting fascinated me and the ensuing growth was a surprise, to be honest. As a side note, mid-way through my therapy I went back to school, did an internship, passed my exams, and recently have been licensed as a marriage and family therapist. My own therapist has encouraged me, "You can't take your clients where you haven't gone", so I press myself to deal with aspects of my past that I'd prefer to ignore. And as for my own clients... well, I see incidences of transference as evidence that the therapeutic relationhip is healthy and growing. When the client is ready, we talk about it very openly... and I'm finding that my own therapist is correct about the benefits of having been through the process myself.

    I welcome anybody's thoughts or suggestions. :)

  • daisy

    My therapist also did not 'warn' me about 'erotic transferance', even after I told him that I was having sensual and sexual thoughts about him.

    8 months later we are still having a 'sexual exploitatation' relationship. "relatonship" is use very loosely.

    This is unhealthy, evil and WRONG>. I'm sick to my stomach, and scared. I have a route out, but, it's a long and difficult one.

    Don't go there. It's not pretty.

  • Beth

    The entire idea that ALL feelings that one might have for their therapist are nothing more than an illusion is the only thing that angers me. I've been out of therapy for 6 months and am still struggling with missing my therapist. I never fell in love with him, but developed some really warm and positive feelings for him. I refuse to believe that they aren't at least partly genuine. The therapist is a human being as well. You may not get the entire pictureof them, but what you are seeing is not a lie, even if it is some of the best of them. One becomes attached and it is very complex. The therapist can not completely hide in that room. Little things come out and little things, for me, often lay the seeds for affection. I love my therapist as my therapist and don't want some psychological explanation stealing my feelings from me. I never wanted anything back from him, except for maybe his understanding. I just want my feelings.

  • dr. michael

    Hi to all who have posted comments so far. I read them all with great interest, and the thing that stood out for me most clearly is how much pain so many people are in. Years ago, I was the victim of sexual exploitation by a therapist, who “explored” my erotic transference with me, progressed to discussing her failing marriage, and then terminated therapy and attempted to sleep with me. (Well, actually, we did go to bed together, but unsurprisingly [in retrospect] it was the one time in my life I was unable to sustain an erection. Go figure.

    Cut to the present, 27 years later. I am now a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in Los Angeles, and I’m also an instructor at a graduate school of professional psychology. One of the courses I teach is Erotic Transference and Countertransference, and, in preparation for it, I have read extensively on the topic I also have encountered erotic transference from a number of clients, both male and female. As such, I was struck by many of the ideas put forward in the comments, and I wanted to try to clear up some misunderstandings embedded in them, misunderstandings that seem to me to be giving rise to considerable confusion on the topic.

    Misunderstanding #1: All erotic transference is created equal.

    Not so. Erotic transference (and, to a certain extent, countertransference,) is often subdivided into two main groups. Defensive erotic transference (also called, variously, sexualized, eroticized, or erotized), often shows up quite early in the treatment and generally has an insistent, urgent, desperate, or aggressive quality. This is due to the fact that it is, at the core, an effort to obtain emotional rescue and an attempt to avoid the uncomfortable, painful, and vulnerable feelings that go along with affective dependency on a significant other, in this case the therapist. It shows up early partly because it has become, in the life of a particular person (patient, therapist, or both) a primary way of relating to others in order to establish vitally needed relational ties and meet emotional needs. Defensive erotic transference also tends to have one more telltale aspect: the denial of the “as if” quality of the therapeutic relationship. What this means is this: a therapy relationship is not the same as one in real life, because it is a professional service that is bought and paid for. By the same token, it engenders very real feelings. This is how (psychoanalytic) psychotherapy works: the emotions that arise are the basic material the therapist uses to help the patient, although it is always understood that they belong to this professional relationship. It’s as if the relationship is “real”, although it is not. Defensive erotic transference denies the unreal “as if” aspects and treats the relationship as if it were a real one. By contrast, if sexuality is repressed – that is, if it is not being used defensively, but is itself that which is being defended against – then it may emerge later in the treatment in a more tentative, gentler way. In this, non-defensive erotic transference, the feelings are warm, as a rule, rather than hot, and the sense of the “as if” relationship is often preserved. In fact, patients in this mode are often frightened that something sexual might happen, and they are very reassured when their therapists tell them that nothing will.

    Misunderstanding #2: Dependency is a bad thing.

    No, it’s a necessary thing, although it depends on the kind of dependency, temporary or permanent. Imagine you have broken your ankle, and you are in a lot of pain. You go to the doctor, who puts your ankle in a cast, then hands you a pair of crutches and a prescription for Vicodin. Naturally, you come to depend on these to help you through the healing process. Six to eight weeks later, when your ankle has healed, you will take off the cast and throw away the crutches. Everyone does, because they have served their purpose but not everyone will throw away their Vicodin. Some people become permanently dependent. Good therapy, even long term psychoanalysis, is based on the idea of temporary dependency that changes and lessens over time, as the patient’s functioning grows, much like the crutches and cast. However, in the beginning of treatment, feelings associated with moving into a sense of dependency may be difficult for certain people and may be unconsciously defended against in a variety of ways, including the sexualizing of the therapeutic relationship (by either patient or therapist or both.) Eventually, hopefully, it can be talked about, which tends to lessen its impact and allows for a greater acceptance of the dependency itself.

    Misunderstanding #3: All therapists and therapies are created equal.

    Sorry, especially for those people who see behavioral and cognitive-behavioral therapists (CBT’s), who are the ones that tend to populate the rolls of insurance panels. These therapeutic modalities are designed to be short-term, symptom-specific interventions that focus on overt behavioral manifestations and associated cognitions. The therapists not only do not deal well (or at all) with transference and countertransference, they don’t even like to talk about feelings of any kind (although that’s sort of changing these days). In any case, they certainly don’t discuss erotic feelings. The only class of therapists who routinely discuss erotic feelings and transferential reactions are psychoanalysts and psychoanalytically informed psychotherapists, in part because they’re the only ones talking about transference at all (it’s an analytic concept,) and in part because they’re better trained to do so. Having said that, however, I do have to admit that not all analysts deal well with erotic transferences and countertransferences. I believe this is primarily because classes on the topic are rarely taught in analytic institutes, and almost never in psychology and MFT graduate schools. As a result, most therapists don’t know how to handle the potentially explosive feelings associated with erotic transference. Accordingly, they stay away from erotic exploration for fear they and their patients will enter emotionally charged territory in which they will feel very lost and from which they imagine they will never escape. Unfortunately, this helps no one.

    Misunderstanding #4: Erotic transference is the product of the patient’s isolated mind.

    Never. It’s always a product of the interaction between the patient and the therapist. This doesn’t mean the feelings have to match, especially in the case of defensive transferences. A patient who sexualizes her vulnerabilities may be responding not to the therapist’s sexual feelings, but more to his warm caring and empathic attunement however, she is responding to something, not nothing. It’s important, in the exploration of the emotions, to determine what it is, exactly, and who is making what contribution.

    Misunderstanding #5: It’s bad to talk about erotic feelings, because they can incite therapists (or patients) to act on them.

    Not if the therapist is ethical. It’s almost always a good idea to talk about feelings of whatever kind arise in the course of therapy. That’s why it’s important, if emotions are the issue, to see someone analytically trained, as opposed to a CBT therapist. (Note: I have nothing against CBT for specific symptoms that’s what it was designed for. In my opinion, however, it is not a good modality for treating long-term characterological issues.) In fact, the whole point of psychoanalytic psychotherapy is for the therapist to help the patient put feelings into language, so that emotions can be felt, communicated, and fully integrated into conscious experiences of selfhood.

    Misunderstanding #6: If we’re really in love, then it’s OK to stop therapy and change the nature of our relationship.

    No, it’s not. The emotional dynamics, most of which are unconscious, are far too complex to ignore. What looks and feels like a torrent of love may be being fed by many different kinds of emotional streams, including (but not limited to) defensive sexualization, rescue fantasies, power dynamics, non-sexual transferences, unconscious seductions on the part of the therapist, idealization (defensive and otherwise,) devaluation and contempt masquerading as sexual intrigue, revenge wishes, etc. etc. etc. The only healthy thing to do is to try (both of) your best to hang in and talk about what you’re feeling. By doing so, you can being to pull apart not just the overt sexual feelings from their underlying unconscious elements, but also the respective contributions of both therapist and patient.

    Misunderstanding #7: As long as we don’t actually sleep together, everything is OK.

    No, it’s not. Obviously, it’s never OK for a therapist to sleep with his patients, but many other things are also unethical. Flirting is not OK, and neither is the giving of unwanted hugs or other physical contact. Requests to reveal one’s body are also not OK as are unsolicited comments on a patient’s attractiveness or sexual aspects in an obviously admiring way. It’s not OK for therapist to date patients or to make plans to see them outside the therapy setting. It’s not OK for therapists to date friends and family of their patients, especially first degree relatives (mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, grandparents, grandchildren). It’s not OK for therapists to date close colleagues and co-workers of their patients. If the dating relationship precedes the patient relationship, the therapist cannot take the patient into therapy. If the clinical relationship precedes the romantic attraction, the therapist must not enter into the romantic relationship. It is unethical for a therapist to terminate a therapeutic relationship to enter into a romantic one with a friend or relative of the patient…or the patient herself.

    I guess that’s all I have to say for now. I know that erotic transference is a confusing topic that engenders many painful and confusing feelings for all concerned. I hope my clarifications help to make it a little easier to understand.

  • Beth

    I can't believe that you think the relationship is not real. One of the things I miss most about my therapist are all of his little expressions. I wasn't talking to a robot in that room. He's a real person even if he was doing his job when we were relating as client-therapist. He's still real. My feelings are real.

  • kathleen

    I don't think Dr. Michael is saying that there isn't a real relationship between therapist and client in many ways it might be the most real and authentic relationship a client has. What I took his comment to mean is that a client sees a therapist in a very 'protected' environment. Inside the office, his job is to attend to her. In real life, the therapist wouldn't likely be that attentive. there are other distractions for him, etc. But the relationship is that room is, though brief and protected, very dynamic and (hopefully) healing.

    Editor's Note: Kathleen has articulated this point very well! Readers, please take note of the distinction she is making.

  • Anonymous-5

    I posted here a few months ago about my experience with erotic transference and I read with interest Dr. Michael’s explanation of the different forms. I definitely fell into the defensive category. The feelings came on quickly and suddenly after a particularly emotional psychotherapy session and increased with intensity with each session and had the quality of urgency he describes.

    From my own experience I agree that these feelings were not imaginary – quite the contrary, they felt "more" real. Never had I felt such deep, powerful feelings of love and sexual attraction in my life, although the added dimension of extreme dependency was crippling and unwelcome. The forbidden nature of the love made it heartbreaking.

    I believe part of the frustration is that there seems to me to be a casualness or lack of understanding on the part of some in the mental health community. The two attitudes that I observed were a minimization of the seriousness (it’s "only" erotic transference/a crush) or a discomfort with dealing with it at all, given that the topic of discussion is either the therapist himself or another therapist. I really feel like it’s therapy’s dirty little secret. I may have had an abnormally serious case (and a rather insensitive therapist), but during the height of this "crush" I could barely sleep, had no appetite and thought about my therapist to the point that I feared I was losing my mind. The end of therapy was emotionally devastating and I went on an antidepressant to ease the pain. My extreme embarrassment and guilt about being so dependent on someone with whom I did not have a personal relationship, as well as my vulnerability and naturally reserved nature kept me from asking for much needed help and therefore exacerbated the problem.

    Having lived through this, my firm belief is that patients should be warned of the potential for this debilitating emotional problem prior to the start of therapy. And given that it is such a difficult thing to talk about, therapists should be extra sensitive and vigilant about detecting problems early on.

  • Andy

    I am a male client who experience the defensive brand of erotic transference. My therapist really should have known about the pitfalls, warning signs and other concerns, but reacted very defensively herself after my defensive reaction.

    I should point out that Dr. Michael is as dead on as I have seen. There are oh so many here in British Columbia, Canada who don't have a clue about transference or erotic transference.

    I ended up making a complaint about the therapist to her professional body. They substantiated some of my concerns (comments to and about me, some in e-mail format) and she was required to enter into a consent agreement and seek supervision on boundaries in couples therapy for over six months. She eventially charged me with Criminal Harassment which I am defending myself against to this day.

    I saw many therapists since the problems (I saw her over two years ago) and finally a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with type II, bipolar with psychotic episodes (based on positive and negative thoughts of my therapist suicidal thoughts) and I am on 150 mg. of Effexor XR and 1 mg of Rispiradone. The latter has helped me the most.

    My therapist did initially try to "reassure" me that nothing happened, nothing will, but it made me more suspicious of her motives (ie., defensive). it was one of a great number of errors.

    Dr. Martha B. Koo, California Psychiatrist has published a great journal article on male patient, famle therapist erotic transference.

    A.

  • Andy

    When I saw the female therapist concerned, it was with my wife in couples counselling. I found it odd that the therapist insisted on seeing me individually and not my wife then, over time, made comments to me that we inappropriate, sometimes shocking. It was always about me -- positive and negative. My wife began to feel neglected and I was uncomfortable. It was really awkward and all the probing was intense.

    I wonder if some of these erotic transference issues come about in large part as a result of ethical slips.....

    I've seen so many counsellors, in the hope I could somehow work through my transference issues. I've had limited success since. It's been well beyond painful. I fell as though I, and of course my family, have been through a major life changing experience. It's been really hard, really distracting from the things I would rather be focusing on as a parent of three children and a husband.

  • warrior princess

    I am new to this, but felt i wanted to first comment on the courageous number of people who have shared their very personal stories. i am touched by your honesty and sincerity. Really. I am a licenced psychotherapist and currently going to (seeing) a non-licensed therapist for TX for PTSD. She, herself has been helpful in a number of ways, mainly because she has gone through what i have. NO matter the training, if she has been through it and is thriving, or at least surviving, she (or he) has my full respect. We also seem to bond on so many topics (not unlike all of you), and share a lot in common in terms of our educational background, theoretical viewpoints, morales and ethical code. WE get along like 2 peas in a pod..and the rest you can guess...chemistry!

    I know, it's "grist for the mill', in that i am both incredibly attracted to her being, as well as terrified to say anthing . It all feels so cliche'to me erotic transference...it's like...who doesn't feel attracted to someone with whom you can share all of your most precious secrets ...? sure, that is one thing...we are supposed to feel this ...but from my angle...it feels a lot more challenging..

    I also feel an added sense of "dah!" i should know better...but when you are on the side of pure trust and vulnerability, even a therapist has flaws...or at least transparencies..

    I wonder if that adds to the eroticism ? knowing i can't. knowing she can't but pushing the edge...(in my mind as of now)

    Talking about it has not happened, as i have caught myself in this familiar web of holding this duality...the love i have for her (we both happen to be gay women ), and the cold hard truth that i could never, and she could never. It's incredibly stark, the contrast between our fantasy life and reality yet meshes so well together like a perfect painting. When you're in the room, all of your fantasies of glorified unconditional love are boundless, euphoric as others have mentioned. It's like this incredible force you never had before sinks/melds into your skin giving you exactly what you always wanted and always needed. It feels like the perfect medicine, and with that, comes the natural high of the fantasy of the parent...and there it is...right in my face. Now, "i gotta deal"...shit!

    Sure, i know it...but what the he..to do about it is tripping me up. i also have a grounding telling me how dangerous this mine field is. in any case, i wanted to mention i've read all of your comments and feel so much better knowing others feel this way. it has given me a sense that 1) i am not alone and 2) seeing how it really impacts you as clients.

    I suppose i should offer some support some morale of comfort providing the communication to make you feel better. I guess, this time, i am asking for the help. How or should i confront this? I feel a lot of shame, embarrasment, because "we as therapist's encounter this all the time"...well, that is true, but i'll tell you- sitting on the other side is sooooo much easier than right in front of your biggest fear. Again, not sure what to ask for, but thank you for listening.

    ps: i call myself the warrior princess because when i was a little girl, my dad took me to "indian princesses" -(when the word. "indian" did not conjure the feelings it does today)

    it was a father - daughter gathering with other dyads. very heart-felt. the warrior comes from my years on the battlefield- and continuing this hardship while trying to break free of my own victimization and come into myself as a full empowered woman with choices.

  • Andy

    Well, I for one believe I can relate to a gay woman's perspective.

    My advice: BE CAREFUL. I thought I could handle the erotic attraction to my attractive female therapist. I lost control and found myself thinking about her (emotionally, not sexually) all the time. It got way out of hand. A real steamroller. If I'm ever near an attractive female therapist again (that seems like THE ONE), I only hope I'm strong enough to terminate therapy immediately and get the heck out -- fast.

  • warrior princess

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for posting...if i understood you correctly, do you mean you would get out of therapy as soon as you could? re: erotic transferece (from therapist's perspective>

    i would really enjoy anyone else's feedback. i don't think it matters if it is girl-girl...do you?

  • Jane

    No one needs to endure this much pain. When are therapists going to get the point. It's cruel! They can rationalize the benefits of working through a romantic transference any way they want. The truth is it is not worth it for the patient. There have to be ways of avoiding this. Let's spare the patients. The love is real and the pain torture.

  • Andy

    I agree, totally. It's one of the most emotionally painful things I've ever been through, myself. I ranked the rough "breakup" between me and my therapist as in the top three disasters of my tormented life.

    I trusted her and, yet, somehow I knew she would let me down. When I tried to ask why she did and said what she did and said (I challenged too hard, I guess) she was more defensive (perhaps hurt) than I ever expected. She hit back, hard. She had her lawyer in tow.

    This is a BIG issue for me and, according to what's here, others as well. I would appreciate someone like Dr. Michael offering more advice on support. Perhaps a reseach centre that could support and/or advise erotic/romantic/traumatic transference victims.....I hate my transference issues being minimized by CBT specialists as a 'crush'. I find that term demeaning.

    Also, the bad therapy needs to stop! Poor therapy boundaries and otherwize bad therapy is a bad place to be when you are a person that oozes transference poitential. We need good therapy, not crappy practises and therapists with their own personal and body boundary issues.....

  • Jane

    Perhaps, we need reform. Victims should have some resources, and I think just turning to another therapist is not always the answer. Also,"transference" needs to be re-examined. It doesn't always work, and when it doesn't, it can be disasterous. Listen to us!

    I believe Freud came up with this "transference" and "countertransference" notion as an excuse, rationalization and cover-up. Patient fell in love with him, he fell in love with patient. Nothing has changed except for the fact that some controls were put on the therapists, but, as we know, not everyone follows those rules. I believe in the value of transferences in a lot of cases. But, I do not see any benefit in working through a romantic, or erotic transference. It is too hard to fix a heart that has been professionally broken. The patient always loses, but I hope to be an exception. I've already suffered enough for a lifetime.

    My therapist has never touched me. Still, I knew , from the minute I saw him that I was in for some serious trouble, but I was hooked. I know he got a lot out of the relationship. He was flattered. He was charmed. When I saw what was happening (falling in love), I got up the nerve, right away, to tell him, and to tell him that he'd better get me through this without damage. I did not want to left suspended in love when we finished the therapy. Well, six years later I'm still stuck. Sure, a lot of issues have been successfully dealt with, but not the big one - our relationship. I'm determined to have it fixed before I leave. I've heard of countless cases of it never being fixed. The poor patient carries the therapist in their heart for the rest of their life - my worst nightmare. Wish me luck. I'm not going to let it happen to me, but I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle.

  • Past Sufferer

    I agree fully with both Andy and Jane. My erotic transference was probably the most painful experience of my adult life and certainly the one where I felt most helpless and vulnerable. Unfortunately I still have not come to terms with it and fear that I will be one of those who "carries my therapist in my heart for the rest of my life" as Jane describes.

    It may be a fundamental flaw in therapy or a cover-up, but there still needs to be more focus on this issue. A Support Group would be beneficial, also more training for therapists, as well as a requirement to add it to a therapists’s informed consent and go over it with the patient so they fully understand the implications. I honestly don’t understand why it is treated so lightly. Therapists, psychiatrists go through years of education and training and yet all the good work that they accomplish with a patient can be wiped out by an inadequate response to transference. I know therapists do not want their patients coming out of therapy sicker than when they went in. Yet that’s what happened in my case and it seems to have happened in many other cases. Why is this not taken more seriously? And why is it such a secret?

    It seems like when tranference surfaces and you are most vulnerable and in need of the most care and understanding, a barrier comes up and the therapist retreats. Perhaps they would feel less threatened had it been fully discussed upfront. More focus on the problem perhaps would also allow the therapist to feel more comfortable treating it. On the other hand, maybe therapists would feel they are relinquishing some control and therapeutic material by fully informing patients in advance. There certainly would be less opportunity for manipulation (and also by the way, ethical slips).

  • Jane

    I agree with the idea of having the therapist disclose the possibility of an erotic/romantic transference. But, the problem I see is that transference doesn't translate into words too easily. Even if the therapist was willing to sing love songs about it, show me romantic art he'd made to illustrate it, make a lovely independent film about it, then tell me he'd fix my problems too, but I risk my heart being broken by him at the end, I still wouldn't get it. Because, unless you've experienced it, it's a hard idea to wrap your, already vulnerable, brain around. I continue to be impressed by the intelligent, eloquent and informed comments submitted by my fellow transference sufferers. You understand transference. I guarantee you, if my therapist warned me that we might be hopelessly falling in love during the course of therapy, I, given the state of mind I was in when I started, would probably have gone out shopping for a sensual outfit to wear to the second session, with the hopes of getting the seduction started. By the way, that's exactly what I did.

  • Beth

    I suppose I see the more positive side in all of this. I would be fighting to hold my therapist forever in my heart. That's why the idea of transference angers me. I want those feelings because they are the one way to hold him close to my heart. I don't want that taken away.

    My reaction, oddly enough, did not really occur until after therapy ended. I do love him and that I did in fact grieve the loss of our relationship. My thoughts are that he is worth the pain and I wouldn't trade it away for what I shared with him. After I personally stopped seeing him, he was seeing my daughter for several months. I was perfectly content outside of the room as long as I could still see him. I didn't start with the grieving until after he stopped seeing my daughter. I would think that if it was all about what I was getting from the room, I would have missed him as soon as I got out of it. So while I may have spent months yearning for his presence, as the pain has subsided, the love is still present. My heart still feels warm when I think of him and his smile. I would never want to trade that away. I don't see how his smile, his laugh, his sounds, his gestures, his voice, his expressions have to do with my getting my needs met. It has to do with him and it has to do with an appreciation for someone's life light. I've been out of therapy for almost 9 months now. There is no anger. I knew going in that the relationship was temporary. I was not deceived. I love him and I won't let it be explained away.

  • Jane

    I'm very happy to hear that your therapy relationship ended that way. Sounds like a perfect therapy world - textbook therapy. I only wish my experience was as pleasant. However, I fell madly in love with my therapist, for whatever reason, and that is what turned my world upside down. Not all therapies are created equal. Don't you think I wish mine could have gone as smoothly?

  • Beth

    I apologize. I certainly didn't mean to undermine anyone else's pain. I just get my dukes up when someone wants to take my feelings away from me. I imagine it would be good to warn patients of the potential for this type of thing happening. I hope you feel better.

  • Jane

    I can't speak for you, but nobody can take my feelings from me - not the ones I want to hold on to. No apology is necessary since I was not offended, After many years of therapy, I've learned to never allow anyone to undermine my feelings. Transference/counter transference is a very complex subject and a whole other story. My "dukes are up" with my therapist on that subject. I feel nothing but kindness and empathy for those in our support community.

  • Andy

    Nice work on the posts and comments everyone. This is the one and only support environment I have seen on transferences, in my search for answers.

    Thank you.

  • Star

    I recently had erotic transference with my male therapist. I am a married mother of three.

    It started 3 months into the therapy, and three months later I terminated the therapy because it was too painful and he wouldn't work with me on it. He was more of a cognitive-behavioral therapist and didn't know how to handle it. I just knew that I had to get out of this extremely painful situation.

    It's been 4 weeks since I terminated, I already started therapy with a psychoanalitic female therapist who is trying to help me understand the transference that happened with the last therapist.

    I still cry a lot, think about him a lot, feel abandoned (even though I'm the one who terminated), and I am terrified that this pain will not go away with time.

    Has anyone recovered from this, or found that they were able to get back to their lives and grow and benefit from the experience? Doesn't the acute pain at least go away, after you've gone through the grieving? It can't be as bad as losing a loved one who dies, and even that pain softens, right?

    Thanks.

  • Catmom

    Star-

    I am the "Catmom" who originally posted about my transference for my therapist back on April 22, 2008. I had just found out from him that he thought I was getting close to being ready to terminate. ( He, too, is a cognitive behavioral therapist and is not especially good at discussing emotions, especially those that arise in the therapeutic relationship.)

    At first, I was devastated, which is what led me to post here in the first place. The grief I felt at having to leave this very nurturing and supportive relationship was overwhelming. It was very much like the feelings I have had when a loved one dies (I have lost both parents and a brother) There are waves of pain and tears followed by relative calm & this goes in cycles that eventually come father and farther apart until I have let go of whatever it is that I am grieving.

    Star, you sound like you have not experienced grief like this before. For me, it was almost exactly like the death of a loved one, but did not last as long.

    As of this date, I have not completely left this therapist but will be seeing him only once a month. I can now imagine eventually stopping seeing him altogether without such extreme pain. He is no longer in my thoughts 24/7 as my "imaginary friend." I have let go of it to a large extent.

    There is a yahoo group called "A Most Heartbreaking Love" that has some very active members suffering from sinlar issues. You may find this useful as you work through your feelings for your ex-therapist.

    Good luck,

    Catmom

  • Star

    Catmom! I am so thrilled to tell you that it's been less than 2 weeks since my post and already I feel 100 times better. Your description of the grieving is exactly what I experienced. You are correct that I never grieved for a relative who died, and the last time I experienced such grief was 20 years ago after a bad breakup with a boyfriend.

    The final climax was a very bad wave of pain that I had while I was sitting outside the gym where my 7-year-old was having a class, last week. There was music piped in for the class (Nowhere Man by the Beatles), and music always gets to my emotions. The pain of missing my therapist was so awful, and I was determined to just sit through it and live through it and come out the other side. I opened my journal which I always keep in my pocketbook and wrote down exactly how the pain felt, and what the pain was about. After that, which took about 10 minutes, I have been steadily recovering and haven't had another wave like that. I felt just like a "fever" had broken. I would never have recovered if I hadn't ended the relationship. I've been obsessing much less about him, thinking about him and the therapy in a much more realistic way, and most important, I've been able to get back to my own life and family with energy and focus, whereas I must say that since the transference started I was in a preoccupied haze for 4 months, completely apathetic, with no energy to focus on day-to-day chores. All I thought about was him, 24/7 as you said.

    Thank you so much for your honest description. Frankly, I visited the Yahoo group that you mentioned and found that the postings there were so bizarre, from people who have had transference in therapy relationships that are going on for years, with therapists who don't seem to keep the proper boundaries, and these people don't seem to be healing, but seem to remain stuck. After my first and only visit to that yahoo group, I had a panic attack, called a 24-hour counselor at the insurance company that handles my mental health benefits, vowed that I would not be stuck in my transference relationship for 5 years, printed out some of the postings for my therapist to see, and never visited the group again. That was my experience. Perhaps others found it more helpful.

  • Catmom

    Hi Star-

    I am glad to hear that you are feeling so much better. I know what you mean about the Yahoo group, but thought you might get some support there despite the weirdness of some of the members. One of them, "Alice," always atates she has been "in love not transference" with her therapist for years and even followed (stalked) him to a professional conference once.

    I am afraid I alienated her right away when I told her that she was in an abusive realtionship with this therapist, given that he has kissed her and said if he weren't married he would "go for it." I get very frustrated when people don't help themselves & stay in such situations. Anyway, she stopped responding to my posts after I told her that I thought she should get out of that so-called "therapeutic" relationship.

    You were wise to terminate with your therapist. It is nice to read about someone acting like an adult and doing the painful and difficult right thing.

    Catmom

  • Anonymous-4

    I'm so happy to hear that some of you are feeling better. I think this transference phenomena can be a way of showing us how we relate in intimate relationships. It seems almost a way of studying yourself and discovering what is important to you. I was in denial about being in love with my therapist until I saw him coincidentally outside of the office and was bombarded by feelings of love. I had been out of therapy for many, many months and had been moving through a grief response to the loss of my relationship with him. My experience has been very different from most here in that I really have wanted to hold and keep the love. I needed to return to my therapist and fully express my feelings for him to him. Since doing that and having had a proper goodbye, I have been feeling much better. I was only angry about the suggestion that my feelings weren't real and not about the actual feelings. I came to realize when I had my sessions with him that I have really been needing to know that loving someone is worth the risk of pain and loss. And that is exactly what loving him has done for me. It makes me want to keep trying with others. I don't like to think of my feelings for him as based on an illusion , but rather that our relationship was something that we shared together in the room as client and therapist. So I put my love for him in the room and I can still hold it in my heart. And that love inspires me to want to love others. That's what gives me peace in my heart. I think everyone has to find their own path through this in order to move on.

  • Catmom

    I am glad you found your own way to peace with your feelings.

  • Anonymous-7

    Well Well! I have just finished reading all your posts and never in my life have i been so glad of them. I have been in therapy for 6 months and fallen so intently for my therapist. He knows about it after I got the courage to tell him but I cannot help thinking he has seen this coming all along and could have prvented this agony I have been going through, He said we would discuss it in the New year but that is 3 weeks away!! I feel worse now than when I started therapy but could not bare to finish with him. Thank you so much for the posts and I will tell him if it was not for the internet who knows where i would be, I feel downright angry and tricked by him.

  • Patti

    Thank Goodness for this site. For about 2 months now, my husband and I have been seeing a therapist for our marital problems and I have such a HUGE infatuation for our therapist! It is so hard, becasue I cannot see him alone and talk with him about it. My husband would never understand this is a real thing that happens to people, he would just think i didn't love him anymore. I am thinking about calling our therapist and asking if he'd speak to me alone, so i can tell him what I have been feeling. I too have been completely preoccupied with him and even talk about him several times a day to family and friends. Obviuosly, he is married and I am married, so it cannot go anywhere. I feel like I want to just sit and talk with him all day and am lusting for him. I don't want to leave his care, becasue he makes me feel so happy. He also has really helped our marriage considerably. I don't love him, I love my husband, but I want him. Badly.....What do I do?

  • mind_doctor

    i am a psychotherapist working primarily with substance users.

    e.t features with many of my clients, including hetrosexual same sex clients. i don't consider this to be a problem, in fact this will develop into a deeper learning for both the client and myself, especially if the client is open and honest about what is going on for them. the exception to the rule here could possibly be a client with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, but even here its not necessarily bad, just more complicated.

    one thing is certain, and that is every therapist will be aware of this going on if they are competent and well trained. one of the biggest give aways is the counter transference that the therapist will be experiencing and as such the therapist should approach the subject at some point in order to normalise the process.

    there is actually no wonder that it happens, during the time each client is with the therapist then in that space and time the client IS the centre of the therapists universe and likewise the otherway round too. every single client, no matter what the presenting problem is, has an issue to do with healthy attachments. this should be a place where the therapist models process and as such should be modelling a healthy form of bonding. after the client has left then the next person takes the priviledged position.

    the process can be quite intoxicating for both parties and it is important to acknowledge this taboo subject. however we therapists are there to fix problems, and if "falling in love" 6 times per day is a problem, then its time to go see a therapist or find another occupation.

  • Anonymous-8

    I get it! Doctor Mind has never fallen in love with a client. Maybe he would be more sympathetic if he had. This is a dangerous process - even if boundaries are kept. There is the potential of professionally breaking the client's heart beyond repair. Wake up and smell the danger Doctor Mind.

  • ActivistMama

    In therapy for PTSD from significant prolonged childhood sexual abuse I was honestly unprepared for what I would have to endure, how difficult and painful it would be. At around the 4-6 month mark I was completely caught off guard when erotic transference erupted right during the time when I was finally beginning to disclose details. Embarrassment kept me from telling my male therapist, but it also shut down my ability to discuss sexual matters—including those related to the abuse—because I feared being seductive or perceived as such. He kept asking me, “What’s going on with you? Is it something I’m doing?” I rode it out miserably alone, ashamed and disturbed by the intrusive sexual thoughts and feelings. It passed. A few months later when I commented about it being an intimate relationship he said, “Uh, we might need to talk about that sometime…” and I burst out laughing. “Been there, done that!” He looked stunned, then abashed. “You know, that’s kind of something you are support to mention to your therapist!” “Yeah, and maybe that’s kind of something you should have mentioned months ago!” We went on to build an extremely close therapeutic alliance and much healing occurred. Occasionally I’d go through a phase of getting moony again, was very careful to be appropriate (to the extreme) and he’d sort of catch on or I’d say something about the 500 pound gorilla in the room. Truth be told, although neither of us was ever inappropriate, we were both attracted to each other. We LIKED each other, we had a certain spark between us. And it strengthened our therapeutic alliance because we utilized it appropriately. Understanding transference I recognized I was working through and repairing past destructive relationships and healing through building a new dynamic—an non-exploitive one. Being that close and knowing that you will NEVER have sex with the object of your desire—even though at times you wish you could—is freeing. It can firmly focus on your intimate non-sexual needs, it’s rightly about YOU the client. As a therapist in training now I am grateful for having had this painful, embarrassing experience for many reasons including that I can better serve my own clients. There is no shame in desiring intimacy with another human being. But to quote Mick Jagger, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try, sometimes you might just get what you need.”

  • Anonymous-9

    Dear Activist Mama -It's Star again who posted in November. It's been 3 months since I "broke up" with my male therapist with whom I had a very intense erotic transference. I liked your story because I could definitely see that with a competent therapist, erotic transference does not have to become a painful disaster, with no choice left to the client but to terminate. I also felt the intoxicating feeling of being able to be with a man in a room, talking about intimate things, and feeling so safe that he wasn't going to make a pass at me and we weren't going to have sex. I felt so powerful. However, my therapist had been seductive (I learn now, since I've been seeing a psychoanalytically trained female therapist since terminating wiith him). He told me outrageous sexual stories about other clients (no names mentioned, of course), and about affairs that his friends have had. These stories were unsolicited by me. Then, after I told him about my feelings for him which he was initially interested in hearing, after I started becoming more and more in pain week after week, he started pulling away, and didn't want to hear it any more. He never tried to interpret the feelings, help me see where they were coming from. He just wouldn't respond if I brought it up, and of course it's all I wanted to talk about because I was obsessed with him. Please, is it any wonder that I left? I wasn't going to pay another dime for this non-therapeutic relationship. I appreciated your story and wish I could have had a similar experience with a competent therapist. I could definitely see where you would heal from that, and I am hopeful that my new female therapist will give me that healing experienc. She certainly seems more competent than he was.

  • Ina Quandry

    I've been in psychodynamic therapy for over 10 years with a female therapist. I have suffered eroticized transference to her for nearly the whole time. While I have become accustomed to the idea of it, recognizing that it derives from my deficient attachment to my neglecting mother as a young child, for several years this was highly upsetting to me, as I am a heterosexual married female.

    I have read about this unique and painful therapeutic attachment, I have discussed my feelings with my therapist at length. I have even stepped over the humiliation threshold to discuss in detail the strange manifestation in a breastfeeding yearning. Still we are stuck.

    This doctor is committed to my healing. Her boundaries are in tact. She has helped me in rebuilding my life in countless other ways. Yet, the pain of missing her and yearning for her remains. I have gotten in touch with the inner child, even as young as 2 years old, and brought these feelings to our sessions time and again. And yet, the suffering remains. I shrug as I say that I accept this weird scenario of yearning -- I covet her, like an infant would a mother, physically. It's ridiculous and yet, I gave it my all, going with the feelings, asking all the questions, answering all the inquiries as to what it's all about.

    And still it remains. In our 10th year -- I'm not a wealthy person by any means, therapy has been a tremendous sacrifice financially, I began to step apart from all this and question whether this is a chronic pain, like a life scar. We brought it to the surface from my child's psyche and it seems incurable. She insists more talking will heal.

    I reached the point where I couldn't endure the suffering anymore. I'd tried everything but quitting. So I moved across the country. I remained in contact with her, easing the transition at first with regular weekly phones sessions, but then only monthly. The pain did not subside. Recently, I have tried to merely ignore the suffering, accepting it like a parent would be forced to accept the grief of a deceased child. I try to avoid the yearning and thoughts of missing her like a recovering addict.

    The pain persists. I have considered another therapist, but fear we would simply transfer this maternal eroticized transference and start the whole painful process anew. And possibly in less skillful hands.

    So I immerse myself in my work, spending hours beyond those required so I won't think of missing her. My sexuality, which I grappled with out of confusion over this odd yearning for her breasts, while intact, still involves images of her. So I have for the most part become asexual, much to my husband's dismay.

    I keep my thoughts to myself now, I feel expressing them to her would be spinning my wheels. Hell, I even wrote an entire novel trying to figure a way out of this (a publisher really liked it too, but said it was too short). I shared that with her. My husband knows about the weird feelings. I'm just tired of my therapist being in bed with us, so to speak.

    The whole thing's much too freaky. I find it easier these days to just put the whole mess behind me. I feel like a shark roaming the ocean with the scars of life showing the battles waged. Maybe that's my fate. Maybe some pains are indeed chronic. Maybe that earliest attachment, when denied, can never truly be healed. Sure we can awaken it, but can we really heal it?

    --Ina Quandry

  • Anonymous-10

    My husband and I have been seeing our marriage therapist for 6 months now. After about 6 weeks, I began to feel deeply connected and fall in lust with the therapist. After 5 months, I finally decided to tell my individual therapist. He suggested I see the marriage therapist alone to tell him what I was feeling, because I had looked it up online and read a few books on transference and they suggested I talk to him about it also. I was thinking about him ALL THE TIME and fantasizing about being with him

    I wrote everything down I was feeling and gave it to him, because I was embarassed to say it out loud. He then told me that this was the only profession where he couldn't act on it, and then proceeded to tell me how beautiful I was and how he would definitely take me up on what I wanted if he wasn't my therapist. We had dialogue for almost an hour on the topic. I left actually feeling happy that he too was attracted, which I know rationally was not good, but I can't help how I feel.

    I went back the following week and he was a completely different person,saying that I couldn't see him individually anymore, only in marital therapy and I needed to work this out with my individual counselor he set me up with months ago. He said he planned that out months ago to send me to the other doctor. I asked "Why, because you sensed my transference for you?" He said " I just had to, I can't see you alone". He was soooo into me just a week ago and now he is deserting me to leave me to work out these feelings with someone else. I am so hurt, becase not only is my marriage failing, but I also canot stop thining about my therapist. I don't know what to do!!!! Any advice?

  • Anonymous-5

    I would advise to proceed with caution. Erotic transference at first feels like falling in love and has a euphoric quality, but my experience is that it has the potential to be quite emotionally damaging and lingering. For me, after nearly two years, there is still a deep longing, restlessness, and melancholy that will not subside. The pain is also much deeper than a regular crush/unrequited love. It’s described as torturous by some of the patients on this website and I think that pretty much sums it up. Also, it seems there are different forms of transference, and my experience is with the most serious – eroticized transference.

    I do believe your therapist made a mistake in how he is handling this. His behavior is inconsistent, which is very frustrating for a patient. He probably realizes he made a mistake by telling you his feelings and is trying to retract it. However, now a seed has been planted in your head that there is a “possibility” at some point he will respond back and that possibility can torment you. I really do have sympathy for therapists, because it has to be difficult to deal with this and I think erotic transference is brushed under the rug by the mental health community. There is probably very little support or guidance for them – just a lot of restrictions – and panic sets in if they feel like they’ve made a wrong move. But I have to say, with all due respect, that many therapists appear to be clueless and have no idea how to deal with this or understand what the patient is going through. The last one told me that erotic transference happens all the time, like that should make everything OK and turn off the pain. Well, it may happen to therapists all the time (given what I’m reading on this website, therapists would get more action than a rock star if they were allowed to), but it doesn’t happen to me all the time. For me, it’s an experience that is unprecedented in its intensity and will probably stay with me to the end of my days. And I would have appreciated in advance to have been as fully informed as the therapist before beginning the therapeutic relationship.

    To Ina Quandry, thank you for sharing your poignant story. It’s interesting to hear about a maternal transference from a heterosexual, since I believe erotic transference is often reduced to a romantic obsession and has an unsavory quality that doesn’t help when trying to get treatment. Your situation shows what it is at its heart – a reigniting of the feelings of the hurt child inside that did not get adequate loving from one or both parents and a desperate desire to be rescued and have that pain extinguished by the therapist. I think I’ve come to accept that this will be an emotional problem that I’ll have to deal with my whole life. It’s as if a part of my brain was pricked during therapy and a poison was released and I can’t clear it out. I’ve also thought about writing about my experience in hopes it would help the pain go away.

  • Anonymous-11

    Thank you to Past Sufferer for your helpful words. Only someone whom has experienced it can understand. You are so right that the first week when he said those things I got excited like "well, he's saying he can't but he's also saying he wants to...maybe there is a chance." It truly is different than a simple crush. He told me once I stop marital therapy and don't see him anymore, he will be "out of sight, out of mind"....that's not true because I think of him when I am asleep, awake, at work, making dinner, in the shower, etc....it's almost like I am obsessed!! When he said that to me, I said "Haven't you ever heard of absence makes the heart grow fonder?" He really hurt my feelings and I will certainly go see my other therapist, but they work together and I have to decide if I will tell him everything he said to me. Some of it can make people blush. He told me it really sucks, because it's the only profession where you want something so bad but can't have it it's like being on a diet and a piece of cake is right there. I cannot even type the other things he said. I am trying to work on my marriage and now this seems to be making it worse and I cannot even bring it up in marital therapy, because my husband hasn't a clue. I feel so foolish for having told him. I can't help but feel that he is indeed suffering from counter erotic transference and just couldn't admit that he took it too far and is now just pushing me away.

  • Anonymous-10

    Things went from bad to worse yesterday. My marital therapist threw me under the bus (so to speak) and yelled at me and made me tell my husband of my feelings for him. It was so incredibly painful. My husband now thinks I jst don't love him anymore and I want to cheat on him. I tried to explain this transference and he thinks it's just an excuse. He then told us we cannot be in therapy with him anymore and I should perhaps increase my visits with my individual therapist and/or take meds. I cannot believe this is happening! I cannot believe he would do this to me! He was so cold yesterday. He made me feel like I was a bad person. He said that he thinks there's other issues underlying, such as PTSD and they need to be resolved. I hate him, but love him at the same time. I never meant to hurt anyone. I am so scared and sad and feel so alone.

  • Andy

    I'm very sorry to hear, Abandoned. I believe I am one of the few who can say that I can relate.

    Being thrown under a bus is a good analogy. I've used it before as an analogy to my situation. I see a familair pattern here. Defensive, angry or even enraged therapist pointing their finger at the client. Who's fault is it? Not theirs! They did nothing to provoke it, right?

    I've heard therapists say in one breath that they care about their clients, then say in another that therepy is just a paycheque for them. Which is it? Or is it both?

    Psychotherapy seems to be a profession, like many others, dominated by psychopaths and professional liars.

    While it may be best for you to try and work through this impass with another, hopefully more ethical, therapist I can tell you that I, myself, will be trying to rid my life of these psychopaths and professional liars!

  • Anonymous-5

    Abandoned, your therapist was incredibly insensitive – I believe what he did was cruel and a total betrayal of your trust. I hope that your individual therapist is much more sympathetic. I’m so sorry this happened to you, but as you can see this site is littered with individuals who have been the victim of this problem. I’m sure there are many more who are too embarrassed or shell-shocked to speak up about it. Perhaps you should ask your marital therapist and husband to visit this site some time. I will reiterate the point I’ve made over and over again. If erotic transference happens all the time and causes so many emotional problems, communication problems, and lingering feelings of loss for many years to come, why on earth is it not the first thing that is discussed before undergoing any kind of therapy? Its most damaging effect is that it can destroy the therapeutic process by driving a wedge between patient and therapist and when that happens, the pain is beyond excruciating because it compounds the sense of loss. Once the transference occurs, the therapist is on the defensive and can no longer be professionally caring and supportive at the same time, the patient is sensitive, vulnerable, and has lost all sense of reason. It’s too late at that point. It needs to be discussed before it occurs, which may not prevent the occurrence, but could at least offer an opportunity for the therapist to open a dialogue and say “hey, you know that thing we discussed in open consent, well that seems to be happening now and maybe this is a good time to discuss it and try to deal with it. Don't worry, I won't abandon you.” How many more patients are going to be subjected to this before a change in the way this is handled is mandated by the mental health community?

  • Anonymous-12

    Thank you to Andy and Past Sufferer for your support. Yea, it does suck that this is such a "secret subject" and it gets pushed under the rug by so many in the therapy profession. He did abandon me while 20 minutes before our session ended Saturday, he said "I am not pulling the rug out from under you, I will still be here for you if you need me".....as he looked at my husband, but not me. I am so incredibly confused. If my other therapist cannot help me, I don't know what I will do. Thanks again and i will let you know what happens.

    Patti

  • Allan N Schwartz

    Hello Abandoned and everyone else,

    I am sorry to read about your unfortunate experiences with your therapist. It is inexcusable that a therapist would yell at you and treat you in any other way but complete respect. I have no explanation for this or for those others of you who have had such negative experiences. Of course, this is not the first time I have heard about such things.

    Psychotherapy, meaning psychiatrists, psychologists and licensed clinical social workers are trained to be good therapists. However, like every profession, there are always a few who seem not to acquire the necessary skills, fail to take the work seriously or are, themselves, too disturbed to really do the work. Fortunately, these are among the very few, a tiny minority.

    One of the major problems in the area of psychotherapy is that anyone can hang a sign calling themselves "psychotherapist." There are no real solid laws regarding this. It is imperative that, in looking for a therapist, you seek credentials. Psychiatrits, psychologists and clinical social workers are licensed by each state and have their license hanging in their office, or should. You have a right to ask to see the credentials, look them up on the Internet or calll the state commission regulating the professions. Keep away from anyone who lacks credentials.

    Transference occurs in every relationship we have, both inside and outside of therapy. It is important, in the context of psychotherapy, that transference be accepted and worked on by the therapist, or better still, between therapist and patient.

    Once again, buyer beware, in looking for psychotherapy.

    Dr. Schwartz

  • Anonymous-13

    Your posts have been so helpful and informative. I'm a fellow erotic transference sufferer. My therapist, a psychologist, is credentialed, reputable, older, experienced, and very intelligent. He has been working through the transference, and other issues, with me for years. Yet, I get nowhere in this area. I'm still obsessed with him. My point is that there is something wrong with the system. It can be very dangerous even in the best of hands.

  • Anonymous-14

    Dr. Schwartz: Thank you for your kind words. I must say this is going to be a tough long road for me to journey on. I soend every waking moment with him in the back of my mind. Iknow he isn't thinking of me this way, I just cannot help how I feel. I miss him terribly and it has only been 4 days since I last saw him. I know he quit on me so i will not be able to see him again and it hurts so badly. It's the loss of what I never really had. Patti

  • Patti

    Big turn of events today, my T that yelled at me and made me tell my husband about the transference got talked to by my individual T today. They know each other.

    The Marital T that dropped us few days ago felt horribly about what he had done and called me today and we talked for 30 minutes. He said he'd be willing to meet with my husband and I for a few closing sessions to have closure if we wanted. I know my husband WILL NOT go. But he said if I am ever in a bad place or feelng hurt or sad, he cannot turn his back on me and I can call him. I feel a little better, but still miss seeing him terribly. I cannot go se him alone, my husband will leave. My T wants me rid of these feelings and says they're part of an underlying thing i am missing. I enjoy thinking of him, I feel like our soulsare connected somehow. Is that a bad thing? Patti

  • Catmom

    Dear Dr Schwartz-

    I believe that many therapists are ill-equpped to deal with the intensity of transference--many more than you realize. (By the way there are licensed therapists who are not social workers, psychiatrists, or psychologists. They are Master's level, licensed professional counselors)

    You may recall my story of developing intense attachment to a CBT oriented therapist and not wanting to terminate with him when he initially suggested it. I see him about once a month now and my attachment has lessened considerably. He never did deal with my transference and become even more distant and removed from me in an interpersonal sense.

    In essence, he ignored it, hoping it would go away. This worked but I am left feeling disappointed and a bit angry that he chose to remain self-protetcive rather than helping me deal with my "stuff."

    Catmom

  • Patti

    Hi Catmom, you know my T that "threw me under the bus" and force me to tell my husband how I felt for him and the whole transference thing, he is allowing me to secretly call him when I am hurting, I am sure to appease his guilt, because he knows I can get him in real trouble. I know it's wrong, but I miss him so much because he's pulled himself out of my life....he actually said in our last session "When I am not with you all the time, it will be out of sight out of mind"....HA, absence makes the heart grow fonder I said. How can these people play with our emotions like this?

    Hang in there! Keep in touch, Patti

  • Beth

    I have always seen my love for my therapist as a gift. It seems like this beautiful and precious emotion that I have wanted to hold and keep in my heart. I did suffer a great deal after first leaving therapy with a grief response to the loss of our relationship, but it never seemed like a burden. It just meant that I cared. My T and I spent several sessions discussing my feelings and I was able to fully express them to him which gave me great peace. I never experienced any anger from this, never needed him to love me back...the pain for me was in not being able to give it to him. I found peace by "showing" him verbally. I still miss him very much, but I know that he is happy. That gives me serenity. I still love him and I always will. I've learned from it and I've grown from it. I still feel joy when I think of him. I dislike the clinicizing of this sweet emotion I have felt. It's our place and I hold that in my heart. I take full responsibility for these feelings. This doesn't have to be a horrible thing when the therapist handles it correctly. It shows us our potential.

  • Concerned

    I fall into that non-defensive "warm" category with respect to this subject. And I want to raise the issue with my T but I don't want to lose him and I don't want to mess him up in any way. I know he's a professional and I trust that no boundaries would be crossed. But he is human as well and I care about his feelings.

    So are we *sure* that discussing this is a good and positive thing?

  • Maureen

    I started therapy almost five months ago after being diagnosed with severe depression. I had thoughts of suicide and it was very bad. My therapist, a male, has been wonderful. He's helped me to face the feelings and experiences that I'd buried that led to the depression. And I look forward to our weekly session. It truly is the highlight of my week.

    Here's the thing, I have realized in recent weeks that I am attracted to him. I don't know anything about him -- whether he is married or involved, or even, heterosexual. But I find that I am very attracted to him. I think of him often, and over the past few days, those thoughts have gone from romantic to sexual.

    I know about transference, although we have never discussed it. Sometimes, I believe that he is attracted to me as well. But I am afraid to address it -- just in case he is in fact attracted to me as well. Or even worse, if he isn't, I worry about how I would handle that. It is still somewhat early in my treatment, and I have made wonderful progress with him thus far. And I don't want him to feel uncomfortable with knowing that I am attracted to him.

    I worry that it would perhaps make him suggest that I change therapists. I would do that if I could continue to have him in my life in some way. But I know that that may not be possible.

    I don't plan on being in therapy for the rest of my life though, and if I couldn't be with him romantically, I would definitely like to have him as a friend.

    What should I do? Should I tell him about the attraction, and sexual dreams that I have about him? I keep trying to put those ideas out of my mind -- to no avail.

  • Dumb

    Mine managed to get it out of me. I really don't think he knew that it was him that I was attracted to. So, it was a bit of a shock to both of us. But he was great about it. Very understanding, empathetic, downplayed the chance that this was "real" attraction versus the special circumstances of our relationship, that sort of thing. Totally non-threatening. Never suggested we part company.

    Your concern about what it will do to your progress is really valid. This could derail the process by causing you to focus on working through your attraction to him instead of the reason you went there in the first place. You said you're doing well and getting a lot out of it. That's so important and that you found someone this helpful so this is a great reason to protect the status quo. You went to him for a reason. Don't let something that may be transient get in your way.

    It has only been a short while since I revealed my feelings and I haven't liked the result. I am just not myself around him. I'm going to press ahead with him because he's truly wonderful at his job. But if I had to do it all again, I wouldn't...

  • Anonymous-15

    I find it so hard to understand and find it truly unnatural, this whole discipline of not acting on natural human feelings. I understand the reasons why a therapist should not--for the safety of himself/herself and the patient and to focus on the patient's needs. But it appears that the whole setup is ripe for transference, be it sexual, parental, or friendship. Why not make the practice more distanced? If essentially the therapist is asking you questions and talking you through things it seems the goal is to get you to see things more clearly and articulate them yourself. And if this is the case, why not be as impersonal as possible, though of course non-judgmental and inquisitive? A voice through a speaker would be preferable. While you can be attracted to a voice, it is not nearly as dangerous as having a pair of eyes piercing into your soul. Or to pour over the therapist's face as fuel for your fantasies. When I read the expert responses of psychoanalysts to patient's issues on this site, I don't even imagine what those analysts look like, let alone feel the urge to mount them or be chums. To me, the distance has all the benefits without those loaded drawbacks.

  • Anonymous-16

    Since people allegedly fall in love through email, I don't believe that removing the physical is going to necessarily "solve" the problem. Besides, there are plenty of people who become attracted to their same-sex therapist when they're not bi- or homosexual or who become attracted to people that if they met in daily life, they'd never become attracted to. So, it isn't necessarily the physical that's causing the problem.

    Me personally, I don't like the school of thinking that says that Ts shouldn't share their experiences, etc. with their patients. The process would lose a lot of authenticity for me if he could never share an opinion or an experience. And it'd be less enriching. If I can learn to open up to and trust a real, whole, human being, I will have gained a lot more than if I could only face a neutral, dehumanized person (or voice, as in your suggestion.)

  • Tweete

    I wish to thank everyone who has shared this painful and demoralizing so openly. I have been in therapy with at least half a dozen or so therapist. This last time, it will probably will be my last, has been so extreme. I went from bouncing in and out to pickup scripts, to completely fearing leaving the office. I felt some attraction at the first session, but then afterward, it seemed absent. Sometime around July of this past year, I started to find therapist not just attractive, but compassionate and needed. I have to idea where it came from, as I was not in a crisis, all seemed to be going well in most areas except with my family. My Dad passed away Jan 2009, I started spending more time with my Mom. I have two siblings that are sociopaths. They have taken over the care of my Mom and all her affairs. I'm uncertain if my sharing my anguish over the lost of my Dad or the intense pain of witnessing my mothers grieving caused me to become more dependent on the therapist. I have erotic feelings and thoughts like never before. How can anyone in the medical profession think that this is healthy for the patient or the therapist? I understand the science and the proof that psychoanalysis has its merits. I have experienced growth in the process. I don't understand why if two people who become emotionally involved genuinely feeling the positive things that are elements of a healthy productive intimate bond, can't act on their mutual affection if they are not otherwise engaged by marriage or any other recognized committed bond. The therapists office is like a panic room alot is shared and learned in confidence. To have this sort of thing go on and not be able to act on our feelings is cruel. There should be some sort of intervention caveat in place to safeguard both parties early in the process to limit the potential for it to go this far. It should not be left up to the patient and the clinician.

  • Nobody

    Regarding it being cruel to be unable to act on feelings...

    While I agree that it can be painful to be unable to act on feelings or to do something with them, I'm not sure I'd go as far as calling it cruel. Barriers against physical relationships exist in many places where there is greater potential for harm than good and perhaps recognizing that love sometimes requires not acting on feelings might make you feel better. By acting on those feelings, a patient would be telling their T that their needs and wants and desires are more important than their T's professional or ethical commitments. Likewise, for a T to act on those feelings when it is so difficult to determine if feelings are based on mutual trust and mutual understanding and parity of power would be extremely risky... not to mention professionally suicidal.

    From the position of a patient, the most loving thing I can do is leave my T the heck alone. We can explore those feelings and agree that the barriers in place are there for a very good reason.

    Learning that we can't always have what we want probably isn't too bad of a lesson in character and life, either.

  • Anonymous-17

    A while ago, I mentioned to my therapist that I thought that I had feeling for him, but had done the reseach, and worked out that it was only transference. This really changed our sessions, in that they are now taped, and there seemed to be more boundaries imposed, suddenly told to sit up straight, with my feet on the floor. I wished I'd never said anything. We have come to the end of the sessions, and I've been told that I need more, but with a different therapist at a different location. I now feel that I've broken all the rules and i'm being punished for being honest. We have been working together for 9 months, and have done some really good work together, so I really don't understand, why we can't carry on and see this through to the end Has this happened to anybody else, and if so, did changing your therapist benifit in any way?

  • Anonymous-18

    It is plain and simple:

    Transference= Falling in love with the therapist

    Countertransference= Therapist falling in love with client

    You just have to stick it out, and with the well chosen therapist who can work through it with you, and "mind the shop" along the way. Then you're cured! It can happen and life goes on with a real lover. That's how it worked for me.

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