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Want To Make Love With My Therapist

Question:

After reading your article that I have just experienced transference for the first time in my six years of therapy. I’m embarrassed, humiliated, and afraid to continue in therapy. How do I go back to my therapist after I’ve told that I wants to be his “favorite” AND how I would like to make love to him. As I was leaving his office I glanced back and saw him smile, and drop his head. What’s with that? Was it that funny?

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Answer:

It is normal that you would feel pretty embarrassed under the circumstances. You’ve communicated so vulnerably with your therapist, telling him your inner feelings in a transparent and brave manner. Now, in the light of the next day, perhaps you are feeling foolish. If this is the case, please don’t panic and don’t feel that you need to be embarrassed. This is a normal sort of thing you’re dealing with. It is easy to fall in love with a therapist: he or she is usually attentive and caring and kind and fully willing to give you all the attention you need (during your appointments). This is a kind of ideal situation where there is no need for reciprocity on your part; it takes on the trappings of the ‘perfect love’ from many patients’ perspective, as they only wish their actual lovers (present or past) could be so attentive. So – it is normal enough to fall for this sort of situation.

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p> As for your therapist’s smile at the end of your last session; that could mean many things. My guess is that it reflects a combination of feeling a little flattered, and at the same time understanding the impossibility of the request: your therapist is bound by law and by ethics to not reciprocate if he does have similar feelings for you. More likely, however, he doesn’t feel nearly as strongly about you as you do for him. This isn’t because he is a monster or unpassionate or anything like that. It is because this is the lopsided nature of therapy at work; he has a life outside the therapy room and it doesn’t include any of his patients. However, patients don’t get to know about that life. He may have smiled because he remembers falling in love with his own therapist at one point (it’s a pretty classic thing to do), or simply because it is such a textbook thing to have happen, and therefore kind of amazing and amusing to watch take place.

<

p> Embarrassment is a type of self-awareness, only it is not the type that will help you. Becoming embarrassed means that you have become aware of yourself as a social object (as though you are looking at yourself from the outside perspective of another person) and that you are judgeing yourself to have acted without grace. But consider this. Therapy is private for a reason. That reason is so that you have the freedom to act “without grace” at times without being judged. And consider this too: you have learned something about yourself in this action of falling for your therapist. You have learned what it is that you are seeking, not in an intellectual way, but in a physical and emotional and very real way. It is the very physical and painful aspect of this experience that is being enacted now that makes it valuable. Intellectual knowledge is important too, but it doesn’t motivate. You cannot have this state you are seeking with your therapist, but you now can recognize what you want, and you now have the power (and perhaps the motivation) to go out into the world and seek it there. When and if you find it, you’ll be able to recognize it when you see it (because it will feel the same as you do now). This may seem like a trivial or cruel thing, but it is not. This set of feelings you are right now; this is a part of your self-knowledge, and it is revealing (in the manner all transferences do) wishes and longings. If you can stop beating yourself over the head for a while, you can use that self-knowledge as a guide to improve your life.

<

p> My recommendation for anyone in your sitaution would be roughly the same. Pay attention to how you are feeling, stop judging it (for there is nothing to be ashamed of which comes from a truly loving place) and instead, record it as best you can. Go back to your therapist’s office and continue your therapy for a while, using the opportunity to process this new knowledge. Assuming your therapist is any good, he will have recognized what has occurred for what it is (a crush based on the unique circumstances of therapy, revealing your desire for an attentive caring lover, or something to that effect). He will not take offence, or judge you; but instead will help you as best he can to make use of what has occurred to better your life.

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Comments
  • Maria Smith

    Wow. I am so glad I started researching "falling in love with your therapist" type information. I've been in therapy off and on for years and this has never happened to me. But this therapist is good and he is helping me resolve so many issues. Our therapy discussions started out around my depression and he tested me for ADD which I have and am on medicine and life is much better. I am grateful to him for helping me and I have said so. I even sent him a letter saying so. That is around the time that it hit me. What am I doing here? and the feelings rushed in. We now discuss my marriage and our lack of intimacy and we have good open conversations nothing inappropriate at all. The issue is I am fantasizing about being with him in every way. I haven't said anything because I am afraid of his reaction. I don't handle rejection well. I'm just starting to get my confidence back and I'd hate to lose it right now. I'm not sure about this transference definition though. Isn't that kind of minimizing our feelings? I genuinely like him and I am attracted to him. It developed slowly over time but its real. I liken this with meeting someone at a party or bar, after talking for awhile I certainly did like someone right away and sometimes it progressed to more sometimes not. How is this different just because he is my therapist? I kind of hinted to him during the last session that I am interested in someone. He knows my marriage is on the rocks so I'm sure this was no shock. He kind of asked some questions to find out who it might be (someone I work with for example) and we both did a lot of smiling but I couldn't say it. I think he knows though. I did say it is not someone I work with but left it at that. I wish I could talk about this with him. I usually run from feelings like this. Part of me is tempted to stop going but I've accomplished so much with him. I'm afraid if i tell him then it will be weird and I'll end up stopping anyway. I guess I'm just hoping that these feelings go away on their own and I can look at him as my therapist again... I wonder if he does sense this will he bring it up. If he does, I might talk. I just can't be the one to go first...and then his reaction, if it is not a good one I'll be destroyed. My husband has been rejecting me on a daily basis so I can't take much more. I feel kind of lost at this point but typing this out really helped.

  • Alice H

    .... tell them, if you haven't already. If your therapist is skilled (and they most likely are, or you wouldn't be so compelled by them), they will make it all about you, your understanding, your process and your needs. They won't be made uncomfortable, but will understand that you are uncomfortable and will be gentle with you. They will guarantee you a safe space in which to explore these feelings as *feelings*, as ideas and ideals that tell you really important things about who you are. It will transform the therapy in ways you wouldn't believe. If you can stand the discomfort and the pain and work through them, with the therapist's help, your heart will be made whole. It may feel like it's being broken at first, but when you put it back together, it will be so much stronger. When I told my therapist about my feelings, he was exquisitely gentle, making it all about me, and also making it clear that he accepted but would never share my feelings. He asked me to accept the fantasy as something that had real affect, and also to explore who *I* was in the fantasy. This was really helpful to me: I had been so focussed on who *he* was in my dream world that i had forgotten to pay attention to who I was. And it turned out that in those fantasies, I was someone very different to what I am in my current marriage. I was engaged, loving, working hard at the relationship but happy to being doing so, feeling committed and connected in a way that I don't in my marriage. By asking me who I was when I imagined us together, he helped me very early on to see that this was the most important thing about it: deeper understanding of myself. After a couple of sessions in which he gently helped me understand that my feelings were showing me the kind of relationship I yearned for, he suggested that I listen to him talk for a while. It was then that he told me directly what I knew already: that he would never reciprocate. Of course I knew it, but enough of my imaginings had felt "real" (the idea of "realness" is a big part of the fantasy itself!) that hearing him say it out loud was hard. At that moment, I lost the fantasy, or rather I lost the fantasy that was so tantalisingly suspended between the real and the symbolic - and it all became symbolic. He said he knew it was hard to hear, and he knew it would be painful for me to mourn the loss of the idea of a real relationship. He encouraged me to work through that loss, to accept it as a real feeling and as real bereavement. The idea of me with him had held real power over me, I had invested it with hope and dreams and potential, and losing it was (still is) as painful as losing many real-life relationships. Don't underestimate the real affective power of what you're going through, don't feel guilty or ashamed, and allow yourself to experience loss. My therapist waited for a week before telling me concretely that he would never reciprocate. He explained this to me, saying that he wanted to respect my process and allow me to inhabit the fantasy to the point where I realised what it was truly telling me. To have heard him say right away "yes but it will never happen" would have been harsh. Most of me knew that it would never happen anyway, but to hear it articulated right away would have shut down the fantasy too early, and not allowed me to learn its lessons. It was also a measure of his skill that he felt entirely comfortable knowing that I was inhabiting the fantasy, and also managed to make me understand that it was just that: fantasy. He was so kind when he said he would never reciprocate, that it didn't feel like "rejection". Rather, he promised to keep working with me as my therapist, not to abandon the therapy, to help keep me focussed on my process, and never to play with or mess with my feelings for him. Some of this felt like a double-edged sword: he was so skillful, sensitive and ethical that it only confirmed and strengthened my attraction! Ironically, had he said "yes, I share your feelings, let's terminate therapy", I think my attraction for him would have waned. As you get through the double-bind of continuing to feel attracted to your therapist because s/he is being so wonderful, ask yourself: what would it *really* feel like if s/he told me she shared my feelings? Would I really really want that? Would I feel safe and comfortable? Chances are, you would be nervous as hell if your therapist reciprocated your feelings. In a way, my therapist's promise *not* to reciprocate was a more precious promise that the one I'd been fantasising about (the romantic one, where he declared love for me). Where else, or with whom, can you get an absolute guarantee of a safe relationship that is all about you? What other relationship (apart from a good parent-child relationship) has the same guarantee? This is what I am holding on to as I mourn the loss of the - to me - very beautiful idea of the two of us in a primary relationship. I know that he is giving me something which in the long term will be more valuable. To anyone who came to this site by googling words like "love" and "therapist" together, I understand just how painful it is, and I'm taking the time to write this because I am just starting to realise how incredibly valuable and transformative it can be, too, if you tell them what is really going on for you. If you don't tell them, you're cheating yourself of one of the best gifts you can get: a therapy relationship that really helps you.

  • Faye Hall

    I know that my therapist was aware of my feelings before I told him. Nevertheless, it was important to me that I tell him openly during session. I was aware that it was treansference, but that doesn't make the feelings any less intense. I truly feel love for him, but I am aware that I do not know him as a "private citizen" - I only know him as my therapist. Telling him what I feel was a wonderful experience. Although I was hesitant and waited several weeks before I told him, it was a great relief to simply say it out loud. His response to me was "That took great courage, you are a courageous person." He also asked me if I would prefer to have a different therapist. I said, "I have no reason to think that you would wait two years for me." (I said that because I am aware of what the Code of Ethics says with regard to relationships with former patients.) He said, "I know the Code says two years, but I never have relationships with former patients." So I responded, "Then there is no reason for us to quit." Would I have felt differently about him if he had said, "I love you too..."? Of course I would have felt differently! I would have been frightened. I would have questioned his commitment. But I am fortunate enough to have a very ethical therapist.

  • Anonymous-1

    Excellent words of advice to the patient in love, and ones I will copy & paste to read regularly as well. Hopefully it will help. I have a similar kind of crush: on my surgeon. Complete vulnerability, him at the "helm" with my life in his hands, blah-de-blah-blah. I get the transference. But I can't seem to stop it. It's particularly aided by a fair amount of attraction for him as an individual, regardless of being my surgeon (I know my "type - he's it). Anyhow, i't's a "crush" in the truest sense and I long for it to just be over. My close friend is pushing me to just ask him out, but I know this doctor's style: brusk, hurried, extremely devoted to his profession and widely respected within his subspecialty. He can be a little flirty, but going too far and sharing this crush would just not be received well by him at all.

  • nancy

    Thank you to all of you "Transferers" out there - your comments have helped me to feel even more normal about what happened to me recently. I have been in a straight loving relationship with a man for 11 years and started seeing a female psychotherapist to cope with a trauma. I saw her for weeks and weeks, then one week before our sessions were due to end I fell for her totally and utterly, in the most sudden, painful, intense and overwhelming way. I had said something which made her smile, and as she'd been pretty unsmiling throughout all those weeks, the smile felt like approval, a connection of some sort. It blew me away how I felt when I pictured that smile in my mind over and over again, until the next time I saw her a week later. I knew very little about this person, I was extremely conscious that this was a patient-therapist relationship and could, would, should NEVER become anything else. I felt terrible guilt, as if I had almost been unfaithful to my loving, loyal partner. I read up on the phenomenon as I was aware that it was not uncommon, so I chose to tell her what had happened. I was upst as soon as I walked into the room, but I skirted around the subject, saying that I had started to wonder too much about her personal life and was worried that I would miss her and had come to rely on our sessions too much ..... I didn't want to scare her or use overtly sexual language, but she used the words "erotic" and "in-love" when explaining what had happened. She knew what I was getting at and she made me feel like it was all ok. She was very professional, un-phased and kind. I told her that, as hard as it was for me, I knew she would understand. I have used that strength of feeling to inject some momentum into an area of my life that was lacking focus. I know that, had she reciprocated, I would have run a mile! I never really wanted a relationship with her outside of her therapy room, but it was good to experience this erotic fantasy in the safety of the therapist-client context .... one which I knew would not be abused and could never be taken to any physical level. It was a safe "crush" and one which has taught me so much about myself, what I can achieve and how my envy of her intellect (which was a big part of it) can be used positively. I do feel that not enough is explained as we enter therapy, and that, had I had some warning about just how common this is, I would have been able to prepare myself a bit more. I'm so pleased that sites like this exist..... sharing really helps remove some of the guilt.

  • Anonymous-2

    I have been in love with him at first sight. He is a good therapist and he has done what he could to treat it as 'transference'. We had a fruitful year. mainly intellectualising it all.. books read, talk...never an hint on his part that he was falling for me (!) as you say.

    However, NHS crap, redundance lurking....he cracked up. End of therapy...we see each other again...2 years on...we stilll trying to work it out... a long journey...diffficult...painful...for both of us ??? Maybe worth it...remains to be seen...I do not regret any of it...more damaging for him than for me. still no sex...just working it out. You have to be committed and then maybe it is about real love. But can you still survive as a therapist after that...maybe not. Too much of an ordeal. With choice, never again...both parts.

  • Going through it

    I just want to thank all of those who commented, particularly Alice H. I just realized last week that I am "in love" with my therapist. He confronted me, actually, and drew it out into the open and assured me that anything I want to discuss is welcome, and that I should be honest. Frankly, I wish that I had known about the transference phenomenon prior to this, or that he had said it to me during session last week, but upon doing my own research, I realize now that is what's happening, and I appreciate it. It's been very illuminating. I plan to be honest at my next session because I realize that there are a lot of issues I need to work through. I am scared to tell him and to be honest, but I think it's going to be the key to working through the issues I have. Anyway, thank you again.

  • Flow

    That's a great question, and I hope the answer helped you as much as it has me in clarifying my own relationships outside of therapy, and my "fears" and unwillingness to discuss my own transference issues therapuetically. Thanks for helping me with your question, and the answer it provided. I already knew what is/was missing in my personal relaionship has taken me a lone time of self-blame, denial, and avoidance to sort through a long with 2 different therapuetic relationships due to relocation.

    I see now I have been working through my transference although indirectly, and this has provided more ground to work more directly through those negatives in the transference some you mentioned in your question.

    Thanks ~Flow

  • Veronica

    I am going through this transference thing as well. The feelings feel so real, that sometimes I can't tell the difference between the fantasy and the reality inside of me. I know that I don't really love my therapist, but it feels so real. I know that it is the idea of him that I am after. All the qualities of my therapist are something that I would want in a partner. These qualities I have are the same qualities that I have as well as a person. However, I find myself in a double bind. I have fantasies about him a lot and I feel the loss of knowing that it can never happen.

    I am a extremely strong woman, (my therapist even tells me this) and I usually can keep things going the way they are supposed to. I am one of these women that supress feelings and act very logically, so this is all new for me. For the past year, I have really made progress in my therapy. (after I stopped running and covering up my feelings) Logic is how I usually come at a problem and solve it, however, it is not working because all of my feelings are involved.

    What's a strong woman to do when she falls hard for her therapist?

  • Anonymous-3

    I'm intrigued by the comments and also curious as to whether treatment was for sexual abuse. My understanding was that an erotic transference stirs feelings from the past and is an unconscious attempt to repeat past abuse with the current therapist acting as a proxy for your father. Maybe I'm mistaken, but far from being fruitful, I thought erotic transference was an act of resistance as the client sought to avoid exploring deeper feelings by focussing on a sexual fantasy. After the euphoric high of being in lust the pain sets in as discarded fears and feelings are worked through. On reflection, I figure I might have been psychotic during the treatment and would hate to regress to such a point again as it felt more like torture than love when I confronted aspects of my abuse. Be very careful in choosing a good safe therapist who does not violate boundaries, or you are at risk of being left confused and badly hurt. If the therapist acts seductive or romantic get out fast. You are vulnerable and dependent and at risk of being badly hurt should you meet someone unethical and self-serving. The therapist is someone onto whom you might transfer feelings or longings derived from another situation. Real love should be reciprocal not a one-way street where you have all your needs for attention and understanding met without giving much back in return. Also avoid mistaking pity for love should you find yourself taking care of the therapist and meeting his needs, or listening to his problems under the guise of a grand romance. Bolt if he turns obnoxious, rude, demanding or sadistic or you will be a very sorry camper. Some therapists have their own "unresolved" issues and an insatiable need to be adored or nurtured, maintain control and win at any cost. Some are predatory and manipulative and will trigger an erotic transference through suggestive words or acts. Be careful not to fall prey to subtle tricks of the trade.

  • Anonymous-4

    yes, i want to make love with my therapist. he has a hunch that i still do, since i told him last year. he's given me a few half-hearted attempts at delving into why, what this transference means about me. Those have led nowhere as he tries to keep things a tad on the surface, maybe he's afraid i may bring him in too much.

    The main problem now are the fantastic fantasies I have about him, me, and his colleague (another psychologist in training) who I see sometimes walking around the clinic. I have this fantasy of getting his attention, seducing him, and him being my secret lover/surrogate shrink. Since he's not officially my therapist, we can get involved. If my current shrink finds out, all the better. This obsession has brought out such juvenile needs. Sometimes when I'm sitting across from my shrink, it's all i think about. Of course I can't tell him, or can I? should I? would it do me any good?

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