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I'm In Love With My Therapist

Question:

man; but how do I deal with the feelings I have, the love I feel for him? There’s nothing I want more than to be with him. And yet, I realize it can’t happen. How do I deal with this? Thank you for your adi

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Answer:

It is common for patients to fall in love with their therapist. This is referred to as Transference. Transference means that feelings and events from the past, particularly those that were unresolved, are relived with new people in the present. We "transfer" the feelings and meanings we experienced, particularly with our parents, to an important person in the present.

Many people are embarrassed to discuss their sexual and romantic feelings toward their therapist because they believe that these thoughts and feelings are "inappropriate." In point of fact, transference feelings and thoughts, either of the romantic, sexual and even hateful types, are important to discuss with the therapist in order to sort out and resolve how unrealistic the feelings are. As Freud pointed out a very long time ago, he was never so handsome that he should be adored and desired by his patients. In other words, he knew he was dealing with transference.

Actually, the feelings and beliefs connected with love of the therapist have a lot to do with doubts we have about our selves. Knowing it is inappropriate to have sexual feelings towards the therapist really means that we believe that we are not loveable. We are convinced that if we were loveable the therapist would make love to us, the patient. So, you see, the problem is not that the therapist does not love us, the patient; but that we feel unlovable and always feared that we were not loved by our parents. Ultimately, the solution is to end our self hate and find an appropriate partner in the world outside of therapy.

Then, too, the sexual feelings harbored toward the therapist can mask or cover hateful feelings. What better way to destroy a therapist than to lure the practitioner into a sexual liaison? You see, even if there is no malpractice law suit against the therapist, he remains forever tainted or reduced by the patient’s seduction.

The bottom line is that it is important to talk about and understand these feelings and thoughts within the safety of psychotherapy. Just to repeat, the ultimate goal is to feel better about one’s self and to find the right partner in the outside world. Finding the right partner in the outside world is part of what defines Adulthood.

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Comments
  • Wendy

    Hi, Dr. Schwartz.

    I am a graduate student in clinical psychology and I was hoping that you could clarify your response? I agree that feelings that clients have toward their psychologist is often transference. However, I was confused when you suggested that this feeling and the knowledge that it was inappropriate meant that the client knew that he or she was unlovable, perhaps that information was part of the correspondence that was not shared? Based on what was discussed, if I was this person's therapist, I would also explore the possibility that he or she was afraid of getting injured in a romantic relationship and was using his or her feelings toward me as a way to not have to engage in a more appropriate peer relationship. Another possibility is that this person frequently chooses love interests that he or she feels have more power (likes to be the submissive partner, lower status partner in a relationship.) Yet another possibility is that he or she feels more safe with the therapist than in other relationships in his or her life. In this case he or she may be exploring scary emotional and romantic feelings in a safer environment. If you have more information about this person's reason for attending therapy in the first place, maybe that would help me to understand your response? Thanks for participating in a venue to help people understand some of these complex psychological problems!

  • Bob B

    Hi Dr. Schartz,

    I was having transference toward my therapist and she was possible transference toward me. She had sexual relations with me even though the two of us are married to others. And when I finally relized what was going on and confronted her after she would call,email, and give me pictures of herself she denied the whole thing ever happened. What am I to do now? I've been trying to retain legal help and not been able to. My wife wants a divorce saying I had a affair with this woman her husband wants to kill me because he thinks I am making this up . Even though he knows she had me sleep over their house on seperate occasions. And she would sleep with me after he would leave for work. I've been arrested trying to file a harrassment complaint against her for she is still calling and emailing me saying she wants to be with me. She has the police convinced that I have been doing all that i mentioned even though there are to many incosistinces in her statements to them. If I can't get a lawyer to believe me or the police how can I file a malpractice suit against her? Everyone is saying I was her gilted lover. Mentally I am a lot worse off than before I started seeing her for help with my depression. Evryday all I think about is suicide because of what she has done, And by the way I have all those emails and have her on tape addmitting she crossed the boundaries. Even her liscenseing board don't belive me. What can I do to prove this really di d happen? I am at a complete loss. Can you give me some help with this? Email me back, To let me know what steps I can do. Mentally I am at a end. please help.

    Thanks,

    Bob (a mental wreck)

  • clara

    hi what a situation, i believe i may not be able to assist in any productive way. My psychiatrist and I have worked together and I am now a patient. Before while we were collegues I thought he was gorgeous, now that i am a patient i have supresseed these feelings. following one and a half yrs the feelings have returned, Im feeling overwhelmed, I guess a relationship ends up being destructive. Freud was as i believe unattractive, god its hard when your therapist is gorgeous and you spend so much time together. best wishes to you I hope things turn for the best. Clara

  • Maria smith

    Hi Dr. Schwart

    I have an erotic transference with my therapist (male) and I'm female. We talk about it often and I get the concept. However, I feel that your response is over simplified.

    We are not all textbook and alike. It bothers me that practioners focus on us wanting to destroy the therapist. That is not true in my case. We have a friendship also. I know that it will not continue until I'm healed and later on we can be friends.

    Before you get all "this isn't appropriate" remember that I am an adult and can make my own decisions. I don't like them made for me. I know what I can handle and what I can't. It would be wrong to be friends later if I wasnt healed and didn't want it. We don't talk about this much but we did once or twice and we won't talk about it again until much later.

    Not all of my feelings toward my T are transference. Yes the erotic piece is but not the friendship part. I've seen him weekly for almost three years. He does not get his needs met through me but he's genuine and discloses as appropriate. I know him, the real him and our personalities are similar.

    It doesn't hurt my therapy one bit knowing this. I am learning so much through this process. What I am trying to say is one size does not fit all. Adults should be allowed to make their own decisions. I am not helpless. I am a strong woman and fiercely independent. Hence why I don't like these lables and "rules" about friendship later on.

    We are all human and I wish this profession would stop trying to get us to feel nothing like the people do who make up these rules.

  • Anonymous-1

    Well, what if one's therapist, from day one, was recognized as one's SoulMate, and that the patient is an older person well accustomed and attuned to life having many 'so called' others one could love, and finds that the SoulMate is really 'the one'? What then? I would like to clear my therapist of any wrong should I 'pop the question' of may we, once I am doing socailly acceptable (I have PTSD)..., continue a relationship after our therapist/client relationship ends?

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    My Dear Transference Readers,

    I want to assure all of you that you are right. Love, is love and all of these articles oversimplify complex issues. I will write another Transference article in which I hope I can address your concerns and clarify these issues. None of this is meant to demean or dismiss your feelings or to treat you as though you are a Text Book case. Please look for the article.

    Dr. Schwartz

  • tina

    I am a firm beliver that transference plays it's self out in all close relations. If you are having transference feelings with your therapist at present. Be aware that you are both human and just because she/he is your therapist doesn't mean he's not a regular guy/gal in his personal life,and is already in a relationship.

    he/ she may have those same feelings for you well but be advised that it is never a good idea to act upon these feelings. the therapist knows how to treat you once you let the cat out of the bag.she/he is trained to spot transference.

    It is up to you (the patient) to decide what to do. to take care of yourself when therapy ends. you have many other options to explore. find another therapist or not,its up to you.

    A therapist sees many patience through out his working profession life span. so be aware that other people have those same transference feelings that you do.

    It can be very painful when therapy ends or it may not be. you have to Take care of yourself once you step outside your therapists office Door. and trust yourself.

    you can do it. but leave your therapist alone. it wont be healthy to pine over her/him while missing out on preparing yourself for acheiving your goals. Good Luck!

  • Anonymous-2

    Things had been going fine with my therapist working on PTSD military issues. We decided on exposure therapy on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. It was overcast and raining and as we went through the emotional event I saw her as I had not seen her before, rain drenched and emotional. She seemed to deeply care about me, my problems, and helping me to get better. I don't know what happened to me then, but I saw her in a whole new light. I said OK this is strange but it will pass. It did not.

  • Kate

    here. Transference, just a fancy word for....feelings. I read an article that said, "THe only place that we call love by another name is in the therapy room. Love is love. There is the Freudian transference, and then there re feelings which have nothing to do with the past.

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    Kate and others,

    Alas, if life were only that simple that "love was just love." In reality, love is one of the most complex emotions of them all. The word means different things to different people. There are also different reasons why we love one person more than the other, why we marry one person rather than another and how our love for our children is different than for our spouse. No, love is not just love.

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