Are My Feelings for My Therapist Normal?

Last year I started therapy. I have a very troubled past, I was abused. I never really had any kind of therapy, and I decided to go into it because of some issues that had begun to pop up. I went for about 3 months. I decided to stop, even though I had hardly worked on any issues. The reason is that I began to have these strong feelings for my therapist. I didn't like the feeling. I wished she could've been my mother and was always thinking about her. When I would go into therapy it started to get to the point where I couldn't even talk about how I was feeling for fear of what she might think of me. She was really nice. So I just stopped going. I did have a last session. I decided to take a trip which didn't really need to be taken, that was my excuse. I want to go back but am scared. I still have the same issues and really don't want anybody else. Should I go back to her or look for someone else? It just felt so uncomfortable. I know it's wrong and that's why I stopped. I never told her. I just don't know how to deal with this. I keep thinking if I go somewhere else it could happen again...I'm not sure. Please let me know if this is something that can be worked out or if it's considered inappropriate. Thank You. - Confused
Dear Confused,

First, I want to congratulate you for your courage in reaching out to a therapist and beginning the healing process that can unfold when you get into counseling. You mention that you’ve never really had any kind of therapy although you were abused in your past. I can’t emphasize enough how important trust is, and I want to especially point out that you hung in with this therapist for 3 whole months…good on you! This is definitely something that can be worked out and worked on and your strong feelings for your therapist are entirely natural, appropriate, and yes, essential.

Essential because therapy is all about the power of relationship. Good therapists should be able to accept you completely and entirely as you are. Carol Rogers called this “unconditional positive regard.” So you really don’t need to worry about what your therapist might think of you. You can learn from your thoughts about her! When clients have feelings like you’re describing, psychotherapists and counselors often refer to them as transference. What’s being transferred? The general idea is that, unconsciously, emotional feelings that you may have had or wished you could have had as a child are transferred from your parents or other caretaker to your therapist. So clients often have feelings for their therapists that are like the ones that children have towards their parents. Sometimes it feels like falling in love. Transference is completely natural and normal, and it can enhance the experience of therapy significantly.

Your experience of positive transference toward your former therapist is very likely a rich and powerful message from your internal world about what you missed in childhood. So it could present a wonderful opportunity for you to learn how to love, nurture, and care for the wounded child that still lives within you. Since healing is an “inside job,” therapy can offer the opportunity find that healing.

Often and for many of us these thoughts might remind us of what we missed when we were growing up. Ideally mothers are warm, reliable, and nurturing. Unfortunately, for many of us our moms weren’t like that or even capable of nurturing. I’m guessing you might have experienced some of this deprivation, creating a huge contradiction for you as you began to spend therapy time with a person who was “really nice.” Red lights – sirens – confusion – yikes!

No wonder you just stopped going. Nothing is wrong—with you or with your therapist. These kinds of feelings can all be part of the healing process, so I strongly encourage you to talk openly and honestly about your feelings, as it sounds like you’ve begun to establish a good connection with this therapist. Any professional and ethical therapist will be able to accept and understand your feelings without taking the transference personally. Also, some people find that they are more comfortable not working face to face, but by telephone. This might be an option that would be preferable for you, at least in the beginning. You are safe in the privacy of your own home—not someone’s office. If you do decide to go to a different therapist, just be very certain that the therapist has experience and expertise working with survivors of abuse.

Kind regards,

Jill Denton, MFT, CSAT, CCS, didn't grow up intending to be a therapist; in fact, in college she wanted to become a screenwriter. She was accepted into UCLA's film school for graduate training, but her studies were violently interrupted when she was sexually assaulted at knifepoint in her isolated home. Jill managed to escape with her life, but in the months that followed she could find no assistance in the Los Angeles metropolitan area for her symptoms of posttraumatic stress. Seeing an opportunity to help others in need, she changed her studies to psychology in order to become a licensed therapist specializing in trauma and anxiety. Jill did finally get the help she needed, and her positive experience in therapy informs her work today. In addition to working with trauma, Jill is a certified sex addiction therapist and clinical sexologist.
  • Leave a Comment
  • Kimberly A

    September 8th, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    I am glas this is normal because these feelings certainly describe what happened in my soon to be concluding four year therapy for childhood abuse. These feelings seem to be a healing part of therapy, at least a majority of the time. I guess what I have noticed is that in the termination phase these feelings, if they have registered quite intensely, from my experience contribute to a painful, and at times confusing termination, at least for the child within. Sometimes my therapist doesn’t understand these intense feelings and why I sometimes feel devastated that our relationship is ending. Don’t misunderstand me, the adult knows full well that therapy ends, and that my therapy is coming to a conclusion. But right now all the little girl wants to do is take her blankie and climb up on the sofa and sit next to her therapist. I definitely am not a little girl, more like in my midyears, and this is embarrassing and sometimes confusing to me as well. Last week my therapist had a countertransference and I almost did not return. I guess what surprises me are the intensity of these feelings and that termination is not a quick fix for them. I find that it takes some time for the little girl to accept all of this, and when I try to just pull her away, it does not go well for either of us, her, or the adult. If you can shed any additional light on termination related to long term therapy for complex trauma, I would welcome your insights including if I am totally going off the deep end, or this is something some folks seem to go through.

  • KH

    July 25th, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    I can never be told enough that what I am feeling is normal. It doesn’t feel normal. I have been thinking about my therapist all the time (kind of makes me feel like a crazy creeper) and I just told her in one of my writings what a huge part of my life she is. I didn’t really realize what me saying that meant until she brought it up in session and now I want to take it back. I want to be around her all the time but at the same time she just really pisses me off. She doesn’t do anything wrong other than being nice LOL! Anyway thank you for your post!

  • shaq

    November 30th, 2014 at 5:41 AM

    I think it is very normal but if u think that is not normal u should try ur(your) best to date anoter person not your therapist but what what u should tell ur therapist how u feel about him/her

  • John

    August 19th, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    Good stuff. I first searched online for wanting to have sex with my therapist. Lets just say what I found was less then helpful. My therapist is very smart. She had previously warned me that I might confuse sex with love do to past experiences. I have severe attachment disorder and have never really trusted anyone. I can tell people anything about me but i lie to myself about my feelings.

    Subsequently lying to others. I am a student of Psychology and know about transference and counter transference. I am pretty sure there is no counter transference going on here. Her role is pretty defined as maternal, nurturing and focussed on me.

    I like the crazy creeper thing. I totally get that. That is my fear as well.

    Honestly I think this is a big break through. I have been seeing therapists for god… over ten years. I just started working with her a year ago. I have never done so much crying before.

    I know that Freud said that transference was often part of the process. That he would model behavior of the patients father. He also talked about the client (patient) displacing their anger on to him that they had for their father.

    I talked to a friend of mine that is working on his Doctorate in Counseling and he agreed. Its good to read this as well because these types of feelings are incredibly uncomfortable for people like me.

  • Angel

    November 8th, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    I don’t know if what I’m feeling is ok. I’m scared because I didn’t want to lose my therapist. She means everything to me. But every time someone brings her up, I feel very possessive and territorial of her. And I don’t know if that’s ok. I’ve been contemplating the idea of leaving her. But I don’t think I can. And I didn’t know why. I need guidance. But I don’t know from whom. I feel like if I ask her, her opinion will be biased. I struggling trying to find the right path when it might not even exist.

  • jenn

    February 24th, 2015 at 1:38 PM

    I’ve been told by someone that my feelings toward my therapist are transference. I have a hard time with it. I want to have her hold me when I am upset. I am told it is healthy but it’s difficult. She tries and holds my hand. It’s great but scary at the same time. But then I miss her and think about her everyday. I also get angry and suspicious. Therapy is just darn hard. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one but at the same time it is painful and very confusing to feel these things toward someone you are a “client” of and that in the end is going to leave like everyone else

  • jenn

    February 24th, 2015 at 1:39 PM

    I think you should go back. I have been tempted to stop so I understand. But I think in the end you have developed a trust even if minor and that counts and can only help you. * I think ?

  • Stephanie C.

    June 22nd, 2015 at 9:49 AM

    It’s extremely normal. I have been through a lot of therapist because i kept falling in love with them. They keep terminating me and sending me to see another therapists and the cycle keep repeated itself.

  • jenn

    June 23rd, 2015 at 11:49 AM

    is it possible Stephanie that you just love what they represent and that calling being in love makes them misinterpret. I think they should know better and stop terminating you and forcing you to start over

  • precious

    August 23rd, 2015 at 11:58 AM

    i am a girl who have been through lot of trauma and i am passive aggressive i have been to therapy for almost an year now but i like my therapist who is old enough to be my mother so much more than i can imagine i wish she was my mother she is caring and kind but sometimes i think she likes me too because secretly bought me a gift an ask me not to tell anyone am really confuse because i dont know how to explain my feeling to her and i dont wanna jeopardise the relationship we have

  • Beks

    October 20th, 2015 at 7:06 PM

    I’m feeling quite the same about what everyone here is. I was physically abused through my whole life by my father and my mother has always been kind of distant. She is a great person, but not very loving. So, I have been in so many therapists and psychiatrists, and didn’t really like any, until I found my current one. She is everything to me. I love being with her, but feel devastated when my session ends. I sped my week waiting for the next appointment. I think about her the whole time and I feel i’m losing my mind. She is smart, loving, nurturing, and shows empathy for me…like a mother. So, I just wished she was my mother. And I feel ashamed, and bad, because I love my mother, but at the same time, wish she could be more available emotionally. I thought about ending the therapy. What do you think? I even find myself envying her kids! This is not ok!

  • janice

    October 21st, 2015 at 5:13 AM

    I understand your feelings. I too was abused and then had a mother that was neglectful and didn’t protect or nurture me. I am attention starved, love starved and when I see my T all I want to hear are her kind words and any gesture means the world to me. I am a bit different in that I am fine with the session ending but I feel I spend a lot of time thinking about her from the time the session end until our next scheduled appointment. I too am jealous of her family and especially her children. It hurts so very much. Rationally, like you are probably aware, we are just wishing we had what they have to offer their own children and wish we could have had that. I often tell myself she isn’t real and is being paid to be kind even though I know you can’t buy some of this. I don’t know what to say to you other than I know you are not the only one to feel this way. It makes us feel so bad, so dependent. People say to talk to her about it. I don’t think I would do that. I would scare her away.

  • Adrianna

    March 4th, 2016 at 9:43 AM

    My mom doesn’t listen to me at all she and my step dad tills me to shot up all the time I filling like my step brothers area more in opting than me me whan I did to talk about someight thay allows till me to shot up

  • Jared

    May 11th, 2016 at 11:04 PM

    Thank all of you for your stories. I am my first 4 months of therapy and I completely thought I was the crazy stalker too. I am glad to find out that this is ok. Thank you all for bringing this to a accepting place for me.

  • Chloe

    May 15th, 2016 at 6:59 PM

    Omg I cannot help but laugh at the ridiculousness of this especially your comment Stephanie as that hits the nail right on the head – same lol !!!!!! I am missing my therapist so much right now she is so incredibly kind and caring I am in love with her like skipping out of her office down the street wants to tell my friends about her over drinks and sleeping with her picture on my iPad in bed. (sigh)

  • Feeza

    June 29th, 2016 at 7:13 AM

    wow…am i pleased to go through these comments….feel almost normal.
    Chloe …lol…that last sentence is me over and over and i shamefully would include singing some cheesy stuff and being in tears over it … Do i laugh or Cry? ….it is sooo sad i love her so deeply (non romantic way) and so much yet can see how absurd it all appears too :-(

  • Unknown

    September 2nd, 2016 at 6:01 PM

    Oh my gosh. THANK GOD I’m not the only one. At first I thought I would never be so eager to see my therapist, but over the past month or so I could never be so much in love and obsessed with my T. He is so kind, caring, listens to everything and at times I feel he is doing this because of a salary. I don’t know but he’s good at it. Im leaving a month and it is breaking my heart. I am going to miss him so much and I don’t ever want to see another T again. He gave me a hug at our last session and it made me feel so happy and that is what I never had in my childhood. I am really going to miss him.

  • denise

    October 2nd, 2016 at 11:39 AM

    I. Miss my pychiatrist of 12 years

  • denise

    October 2nd, 2016 at 11:44 AM

    I suffer from agorphobia ptsd,gad and have a 26 old daughter justhad my grandbaby now it seems like I’m raising her over

  • denise

    October 2nd, 2016 at 11:46 AM

    I’m just depressed he was my best friend now all I have is pillpusher and no listener I wanna write him but my new doc said no

  • night owl

    October 6th, 2016 at 5:20 PM

    okay…………I cant stop laughing at these comments because it so a mirror image of me right now I thought i was going crazy i sit and count the days till my next appointment and also cant stop thinking about my T I feel so jealous towards her family, friends and other clients because I want my T all to myself but now I understand this is a natual process within counselling and I should just enjoy that hour I have with my T x

  • Bridget

    November 1st, 2016 at 5:56 AM

    Hi, i am in addiction counseling have fallen in love with my counselor i brought it up with him in April, and he said it was Transference, then he started blaming himself saying did he pay me too much attention and did i give up alcohol for him and lets keep this professional and then he said he wanted to cut my time down with me i got really upset, we haven’t talked about it since, i don’t feel i can talk to him because i’m afraid he won;t see me and i don;t want that, all i want is to be able to talk to him about anything and he can help, i don’t feel like that at the moment. Thanks

  • tazz

    November 5th, 2016 at 4:43 PM

    Thanks everyone for your comments now I no these feelings I have towards my t is normal I’ve been losing my mind but I no that she likes me a little so It just made me believe I have a good chance at having a good women one day if a professional therapist can like me

  • Renae

    November 6th, 2017 at 9:55 PM

    I’ve never loved anyone more than one therapist that I had. I wanted so badly for her to love and keep me as a daughter. She was warm, gentle, and had the best humor. She was close in age to me, and I felt confused about how much I cared for her. She made me so nervous that I struggled to say anything during a 50 minute session. When she told me she was moving, I was heart-broken. I wanted to go with her. The day she left, I sunk into a deep puddle of tears. I couldn’t catch my breath, and I felt as if I had lost everything I cared about. We used to talk about the “little girl” part of me and being a mother for her so that she felt the love she deserved and didn’t receive. When she left, I gave her a letter with a picture of me as a little girl to take with her. In some sense, it makes me feel better knowing she has a picture of me with her wherever she goes. I never thought I would feel happy again after she was gone. It has been six months, and while I think about her often and cry sometimes, I finally feel okay again. When emotions flood us, we are likely to see them as fixed. However, the strength of emotions diminish with time and thought. In the moment, instead of pushing our feelings away, we need to learn to be with them and be okay with the emotions we feel.

  • Jackie

    October 26th, 2022 at 12:02 AM

    I feel the same way about my therapist. I’ve been seeing her for nine years. I had a very dysfunctional family growing up… very emotionally abused.. even though we are almost the same age… late 50’s I find myself wishing she could be my mother. I think about how lucky her kids are to have her as a mother. I even early on wished she could be my friend. But I then realized that what I get from our relationship I wouldn’t get from a friend. She is helping me heal from the trauma I experienced when I was little. She is teaching me… adult Jackie… to reparent little Jackie. She’s reminding me that when I feel scared about an angry person as an adult… I am not little Jackie anymore. No one is going to hurt me. I’m capable, competent and courageous.

  • Susan

    November 23rd, 2022 at 7:59 PM

    I am a 77 year old woman who sees a male psychologist in his 60s. I’ve been seeing him for several months and I have fallen in love with him. I know this is normal, and a transference, and I’m fine with it. My father abused me then died when I was six, so I have never known what it’s like to have a caring father. Even though he is younger than I am, I am experiencing him as a caring, loving dad. It hurts that I can’t have him for my own, but I accept that it’s not possible. I haven’t discussed this with him yet, and it’s scary to think about. Yet, this happened with another therapist several decades ago, and when I told him I was in love with him, he handled it so well. He told me he was “honored” that I would feel that way, and to be a good therapist to me he must maintain boundaries and not take advantage of my feelings. He was so kind and accepting and I saw him for several more years. The transference slowly subsided, very slowly. When it was going strong, I thought about him constantly, had intense sexual fantasies, thought of him every time I heard a love song, was jealous that he had other female clients…the works! I dreamed about him, too. All of this is normal! He gave me what I never had as a child and my therapy with him helped me trust men again.

  • Steve

    March 23rd, 2023 at 10:51 AM

    As everyone can see, transference happens all the time in therapy. Therapists know about this, heck some therapies are supposed to treat transference as the wheelhouse, and work with it. Sadly, way too often the client gets transferred as soon as they express their feelings to their therapist.
    Instead of being rare, transferring clients because of transference is now the norm in psychotherapy. Many clients regret having said anything about transference to their now ex-therapist. And when therapy ends this way, the client is left without closure.
    A proper termination is meant to tie up any loose ends, and the therapist is 100% responsible for making this happen.
    Instead, clients get ghosted and stonewalled when they ask for some answers.
    Since the therapeutic relationship has been proven to be the most important factor in receiving successful therapy, I don’t know why therapists are so quick to unilaterally end it.

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