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In Love With My Therapist

Question:

I think I am in love with my therapist. I told him about it and he has been very appropriate but has not said much about it. I think about him all the time. I wonder if I am really in love or if it is something related to issues I have with my father. How would you suggest I deal with these feelings.

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  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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Answer:

Frankly, its probably less love and more issues with your father. This is a very common issue in psychotherapy, so common in fact that it has a name, “Transference”. In transference, the patient ‘transfers’ feelings they have for another significant person (a parent?) onto the person of the doctor. This is easier to do than it may seem initially – the therapist isn’t doing much talking (and consequently you don’t know much about who he is). This makes the therapist a blank slate onto which it is easy to project feelings.

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p> However these feelings of yours were formed, they are real and they are fine to have. Normal in fact. Don’t sweat it. I’d suggest that you should feel free to talk directly to your therapist about your feelings for him. You might find that you are able to learn a lot about yourself by exploring these feelings.

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p> Under no circumstances should you act on your feelings for the therapist, however, and under no circumstances should he act on them either, even with your permission. Therapists who get into intimate relationships with patients are considered unethical and unprofessional. In many states such behavior is even against the law. The reason for this is because many persons like yourself have been emotionally harmed by therapists who didn’t understand the limits of how to help people. Most likely you will not have to deal with your therapist coming on to you, but it occasionally does happen. If it does happen, get the heck out of that therapy relationship and report him to his professional licensing board.

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