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I Love My Therapist

Question:

I have been seeing my therapist twice a week for about 7 1/2 years. Often I talk to him in between also. I always have a hard time talking to him, but things have gotten much better for me in many ways, due to the therapy. So he has helped me very much. But the problem is that I love him very much, too. I don’t know what to do about it. I can’t tell him that.

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Answer:

Well – actually you could tell your therapist how you feel about him. I’m not saying that you should do this – but you could and it probably wouldn’t damage him, and it might even result in more progress in your therapy.

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p> Romantic or sexual relationships between a therapist and a client/patient are forbidden, both by law and by professional codes of ethics. The thinking behind this is that patients tend to be in very vulnerable emotional places when they seek therapy, and they very easily tend to become attached to their therapist. When a therapist is of the proper gender for a given patient’s sexual orientation, it is quite common for that attachment the patient feels to become a sexual and romantic attachment. But therapy can never be a reciprocal relationship where love felt by one can be returned equally by the other. A therapist will always have more ‘power’ in a given relationship with a patient simply because the therapist knows personal details about the patients life, while the patient doesn’t know about the therapist’s life. This power imbalance that is inherent in the therapy relationship means that the therapist can easily take advantage of the patient’s attachment to him or her. Most of the prohibition on therapist-patient relationships is to prohibit the therapist from harming the patient.

<

p> There is another angle on the situation too. One of the fundamental things that people do in life (besides breath, eat, poop, procreate, die and pay taxes) is to form relationships with others. Proper therapy takes advantage of this tendency of people to form relationships with one another so as to promote healing in the patient. Whole schools of psychotherapy are based on this idea. For instance, the psychoanalytic and interpersonal therapy traditions lean heavily on the idea of ‘transference’ which is (more or less) defined as a tendency for people to see in new people they meet, characteristics of people they had early relationships with. In a transference style psychotherapy, the patient is supposed to react to the therapist by forming an attachment (or non-attachment) that more or less recapitulates an earlier relationship. The therapist then uses the attachment to help the patient become more aware of their unconscious relationship choices. For instance, if you were betrayed early in life by your father, and in later life have had trouble forming intimate relationships with men, then (so the idea goes) it might do you good to enter into a relationship with a male therapist whom you could initially similarly distrust, but then later learn to trust through a process of working with the transferred feeling of distrust (whew!). If you’ve followed me this far, you can probably see the potential for how badly things could get screwed up if the therapist was to betray the patient’s need for a trusted (and properly bounded) father figure by having sex with her (or him).

<

p> While therapist-patient sex or romantic relationship is just a very bad idea, letting a patient talk about how they are romantically or sexually attracted to a therapist is not necessarily a bad idea at all. Talking about the feelings (but not acting on them) means that the feelings can be allowed, admitted, and processed. Talking about your feelings of love for your therapist might allow you to better come to terms with them and to move on past them so that you can ultimately attach your loving feelings to someone who is free to reciprocate your feelings. You don’t have to do this – it’s not necessary that you spill the beans here. But if you come to believe that there could be value in getting past your feelings, then you might profitably explore them with your therapist. His job will be to accept your feelings without reciprocating them, so as to help you grow. If you do this and he makes a pass at you or in any way suggests that you two should become a couple, he is acting unethically and you should get out of that therapy situation.

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Comments
  • emmanuel

    Why do people always assume that if someone says I love my therapist, it means she is romantically/sexually attracted. I love my therapist so much that it hurts my heart and I desperately want some understanding and relief from this. But I am not romantically/sexually attracted at all. I just love him. I want to be with him all the time. I want him to love me. I have never felt such emotion for another human being, except when my daughter was young.

  • Anonymous-1

    I agree with the comment above. It annoys me to no end that every time you talk about loving your therapist everyone assumes it's romantic. Grrrrrr!!!! I have seen people try over and over to post this question on the internet and they get the same boring response about sex. We will never be able to talk about this "other" kind of love.

  • Sf

    I tottaly agree with you i love my therapist, pure and clean love not related to Sex , i want him beside me specially when i have hard time , i always think about him, cannot leave without him, have strong emotion toward him , came very attach to him but feel guilty all the time cause he is married and of course he will never think about me, but the problem he ignore my feeling and prefer to be silent when i am trying to express my feelings toward him - i am really tired and dont know what to do, but cannot change him.

  • Hunter

    I love my therapist, but I am not in love with him. My therapist has helped me to trust people and he saved my life. I have had numerous traumas in my life, being molested by my brother, raped repeatedly by a ex-lover, had a abortion from the rape, was sexually assaulted by a high school coach and co-worker. Things never really hit me until my dad died this past year and everything came at me and I thought I was losing my mind. I was terrified to go talk to someone and never knew who to even call. There was a therapist who had a office in the mall near my house and I would always go and park near by and a few times tried to walk into his office but was scared off. One day he came out to my vehicle and asked me if I wanted to join him for a coffee and chat.

    This was the best thing that happened because I was thinking of overdosing on pills. This therapist gave me his cell number as soon as I told him this, and he said if you are thinking of doing this, please call me first. I called him twice and told him this, he met me twice in the middle of the night, when he was on his own time. He saved my life, without him I would be dead today. We have developed such a good therapeutic relationship and I will be forever grateful to him for what he has done for me. And I love him like I love my best friend for that is what he has done for me in therapy.

  • Susanna

    Wow, Dr. Dombeck! You're so smart!

    I love this answer. My therapist isn't as smart/articulate. Now I feel like maybe I need a better therapist. Ah well.

    This helps! I have been dealing with the exact same quandary in my therapy--having romantic/sexual feelings for my therapist which I don't feel like I can discuss with him. It makes the sessions a little difficult because I feel like I'm keeping a big secret. I think I will go ahead and try discussing these feelings with him.

    Thanks!

  • Amy

    I have only been in therapy for 4 months, and I have told him everything I could never talk about with anyone else. I love him so much, not sexually, but I want him to be my friend, or brother so much. He is so non judgemental and caring and I can't stop thinking about him. I fantasize about him caring for me all the time. Maybe therapy is not such a good idea. I hurt so badly.

  • jay

    my wife 'loves' her therapist

    she has become infatuated since starting CBT a year ago

    this is nothing less than having an emotional affair...the same to me as sleeping with the guy

    she is going to lose me, her house, her kids and have no money...still as long as she's 'happy'

    the feelings she has for him should be for me..i married her, not him

    i am very angry and feel utterly betrayed by her and the profession

  • Anonymous-2

    I am in love with my therapist and told him i am thinkning of leaving because i liked him so much and couldt have what i wanted. He was professional but caring at the same time but i just think maybe its better to end it now because i will still be in the same situation in a years time in love with him and nothing can happen. Would be nice if i could find someone who showed me as much understanding in the real world but unlikely to happen so makes me want to be with him more. Very tricky situation somehere in between fantasy and reality. I have never loved anyone before so all new to me. Any sugestions should i continue therapy or leave? and i dont want to hear that i will find such a love in the real world as im not easy to love

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