I’m in Love with My Therapist
Dear In Love with My Therapist,
Thank you for writing such a thoughtful and detailed letter. As a result of your painful loss, you’ve touched on some very important issues that many people could benefit from.
It may help to know that you’re not alone. Actually, it’s not at all uncommon for people to “fall in love” with their therapists. The 2 words you used to describe this process – attachment and transference – are accurate and very important in understanding how and why therapy works. Years of research about the effectiveness of psychotherapy have shown remarkably consistent results: The single most important factor in good therapy outcomes is the supportive, accepting and empathic relationship between client and therapist.
Your love for your therapist is perfectly understandable. I remember the love, even infatuation, I felt for the therapist I saw when I was in graduate school over 30 years ago. Many people fall in love with their therapists – it’s the very nature of attachment in human relationships. Modern brain science actually shows us how this happens. Our brains are actually hard wired for a deep level of emotional attachment to others. A healthy emotional attachment means that we have a deep level of trust, closeness, and feelings of affection toward someone. In a good therapy relationship we feel seen and heard – deeply understood and cared for.
Is it also possible that you “transferred” (referencing your accurate use of the word transference) your unmet needs, possibly from childhood, onto your therapist? That would also be a very common experience for people in therapy. In that way, we have an opportunity to “work through” or even resolve past emotional trauma or childhood emotional injuries due to abandonment or abuse. We’ve also learned from modern brain science that we heal old emotional injuries neurologically, partly as a result of this kind of close, caring relationship.
It sounds like you did accomplish some very important work in therapy. You mentioned how it helped with your shame and with some major life changes. This was, indeed, a successful therapy outcome. It was also unfortunate that you did not have the opportunity to work through the dependency issues you experienced with this therapist. I can certainly understand how this kind of ending – referred to as “termination” in therapy lingo – would be very painful without adequate preparation.
I would encourage you to continue with your therapy. This new therapist may be just what you need, as you indicate in your question. With some distance from your previous therapist, you have the opportunity to learn and grow by exploring your feelings about her, and how those feelings may connect back to earlier life experiences and relationships. After all, it is true that, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, we are more likely to learn and grow from real emotional pain.
Should you mourn this devastating loss? Absolutely. Should you move on with your life? Yes again. However, there is no single correct answer to the question of how to do this. If you decide to take a break from therapy, the emotional pain may recede, and you may have a new perspective over time. If you continue with your new therapist, the rawness of the pain may actually provide you a more immediate reality to heal and grow from. After all, relationships have an unfortunate tendency to result in frustration, disappointment and lots of emotional pain. The good news is that while we are injured in relationships, we are often healed in relationships, and they can bring us much joy and a new awareness that can enrich our lives.
I wish you all the best on your journey.
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AnonymousDecember 25th, 2012 at 4:46 AM
If a patient begins to fall in love with his or her therapist, it’s time to change therapists.
There is another problem I have with therapists. More therapists than people realize actually take advantage of certain patients. Some do it sexually, some do it in other ways (usually monetarily). Because of this I’ll never entirely trust therapists. Too many of them allow their personal feeling or greed to control them.
…and the worst part is that you never know which ones will be like that. It’s too akin to playing Russian roulette if you don’t thoroughly research a therapist before seeing them. A criminal background check would be wise too.
Gabrielle G.October 27th, 2014 at 12:41 PM
Transference is generally used in therapy to explore the patients interactions, feelings, and behaviours. The therapeutic relationship provides an ideal arena for the client to observe their own patterns in action. These intense feelings have enormous potential to create lasting change.
This love that you speak of can be helpful in the healing of therapy. It can also be useful for the patient to look at this interaction with the therapist, one could come to understand and then modify some behaviours Psychoanalysis aims at people becoming aware of their patterns, because they are likely To be repeating this behaviour in other significant relationships
R. ArmstrongNovember 6th, 2014 at 3:00 PM
I had only 12 sessions with my therapist over a period of a year and fell so incredibly in love with him. He practices a form of healing, but is not a licensed therapist, per se. Our families are friends outside the therapy setting and we have been in business together. I cannot imagine losing him out of my life. We communicate in some form almost daily. He is well aware of my transference issues and is treating me ethically, I think. What sort of relationship is this?
LyndaMay 24th, 2017 at 10:32 AM
I am sorry that you cannot benefit from therapy. Trust is a major issue with some people, and it usually stems from abandonment from significant people in your life. It is generally “transferred” to therapists as a whole, meaning the whole of the profession. Whether or not you ever explore that with anyone is, of course, up to you; I personally think it would help you to research the actual number of therapists who take advantage of clients. You might find that it is quite a bit fewer than you believe.
SueAugust 25th, 2013 at 3:15 PM
Among the problems with “love” in therapy is it’s based on the most punishing circumstances: the therapist’s attention lavished in a small doses and then withheld again when “time is up,” similar to the cruelest of unattainable lovers.
The devotee never receives an honest response -the therapists delivers a studied performance in kindness and empathy. This contrasts to a real life crush where unrequited affection receives real feedback.
Therapists evade this ethical issue calling it “transference,” but forget what they’ve contrived. They’ve established client as the feeble dependent, the therapist as the omnipotent savior who makes the rules and sometimes promises unrealistic transformation. This is NOT a blank slate.
Add a therapist who curries his ego with his seductiveness and admiration, the recipe can be very harmful. Maybe someone can explain how this is healing.
Gabrielle G.October 27th, 2014 at 12:28 PM
Shame on your therapist for abandoning you. This should never happen. (Ever) it is completely understandable why you would not want to start therapy with someone else while you still have strong feelings for your former therapist.
I too have been abandoned by therapists not once but twice. The last abandonment happened so abruptly without any closure I landed in short term therapy to help me understand it. I had lost all faith in all theraputic relationships until this short term psychotherapist helped me realise psychoanalysis can have a profound effect on patience understanding and healing of themselves if done right, And is seen through to Completion, by that I mean when the patient is ready to exit therapy
Therapist also bring their own history, biases and emotional weaknesses to the process. Thus countertransference is a significant a factor in the consulting room as is the patients transference.
Transference is maximised in therapy because Therapists withhold information about themselves, therapists refrain from intruding their needs into the relationship. The more the therapist knows about the patient the more exposed the patient feels in their presence, the more invested the patient feels in the relationship and the more power the therapist gains in relation to them. Therapist have concrete power as well. The Inequity in power is a very important factor in the relationship between patient and worker and many do not seem to understand all the ramifications of this imbalance. Others simply do not use their power responsibly.
Boundaries are crucial for limiting therapists abuse and preventing clients exploitation. When boundaries fail, the full brunt of the workers needs emerge and endanger the primacy of the patients interests. Patients need to be able to rely on consistent, predictable boundaries to set the frame for a relationship that does not abide by the rules of any other sort of bond. Good Therapusts are able to bring the essence of their real selves into the room without having their needs compete with the client’s they are able to be authentic while maintaining clear boundaries.
Hopefully therapists have gone through their own health issues, and knows where their wellness leaves off and their sickness begins. They try to see the ways in which the latter affects their judgement about cleints and tries to limit the effects.
Therapists are not always wise, adequately trained, or perceptive. Countertransference reactions can cause injury when the professional runs, becomes caught in flattery, or self importance. Therapists are paid professional who should remember to not take the projections of others personally. Humans are susceptible to mistakes and do not always respond to countertransference in healthy ways. If a worker can not restrain herself from reacting to her own overly negative or positive reactions to her patient. She speaks of her transference to her supervisor and is silent about it to her patient. At an impasse she agrees to meet and takes some responsibility. Without an openness to dialogue, patients can become dangerously stuck in yet another unfinished experience. Mental heath workers have two obligations. The first is that they put the clients therapeutic needs before their own and make all decisions about the course of work in service to the clients needs. The second is that the therapist take responsibility for their power and use it with considerable care. The therapist is paid to take care of your interests so that you do not have to guard your own needs as you would in any other human interaction.
In time I hope you can do some research on potential therapists, and continue the healing work you once started. With psychotherapy there are many risks but the rewards Can be just as great when psychoanalysis is completed properly
Gabrielle G.October 27th, 2014 at 7:51 PM
I know this may seem a little harsh but I hope there is a special place in hell for therapists who abandon there patients. You may say these are good people with good intentions who only want to help others blah blah blah, they may have some good reasons for the abandonment but, at the end of the day they know what they are signing up for and and know their choices should be in the patients best interest
MarcoMarch 31st, 2015 at 1:24 AM
I feel terrible about it but I’ve fallen in love with my therapist and I’d hate to stop seeing her but I think I must for the best and to avoid the crushing embarrassment.
I feel like I’m fifteen with a crush, I’ve only seen her for a few months ironically over have problems become over aroused among other issues.
I wouldn’t dare tell her but I really don’t want to stop seeing her not least because she’s very good and has been a great help. The more time goes by the deeper I’m falling for her, I know I’m probably being an idiot but it just happened without warning, I even had a couple,of dreams over her which was about the most erotic feeling I’ve ever had but feel guilty and almost like I’m being untruthful to her. I’ve never had a therapist before in my life and now I’ve fallen in love with her! Maybe I need to deal with my problems alone?
JSBNovember 22nd, 2015 at 6:26 AM
Marco, I don’t know if you have left therapy or not (you left your comment in March), but I hope you didn’t.
What you are describing is totally normal. In fact, I went through a similar experience recently and almost left therapy. I called a former therapist of mine to ask her what to do: she said by all means tell her how I feel.
Transference is normal. I’m SO glad I mentioned my infatuation. I did it via email. I found that the easiest way to bring up the subject.
I also learned WHY I had such strong feelings about my therapist: she was filling a void from my childhood. I knew I was gay at a young age, but I also recognized that this was not “normal”; I weird, like an outcast. I was just a kid.
So then I met this therapist who accepts everything about me unconditionally, with no judgment– I’ve never had that before. No one has ever accepted me like that, not even myself. So of course I would feel like I loved her.
But it’s not her I love. I don’t really know her. She’s my therapist. I hope to someday love and accept myself the way she accepts me. I think it’s only then that I will find true love.
I hope you are doing well, Marco.
MarcoNovember 30th, 2015 at 2:39 PM
Hello jsb, thank you for your reply. To answer your first point I’m ashamed to say I did leave and not because it wasn’t working for me
It was working well but after I told her how I felt apart from being horribly embarrassed about it I also thought it would be wholly inappropriate to continue and that she shouldn’t have to deal with this unexpected turn of events. I know other therapists don’t want to get involved which is understandable.
I did read up about transference before I even mentioned my feelings and I didn’t and still don’t think it’s just a case of being infatuated.
I understand that because she listened to me and was nice that I would become to like her but I’ve only felt this way maybe twice ever.
It’s been several months now and I hoped I would pull myself together and out of sight out of mind would snap me out of it but it hasn’t. Recently made contact again, which I probably shouldn’t have but it was in a moment of weakness
Since then I had to think hard as it’s not just me I have to consider, I’m not her client anymore so it’s not right to make contact I guess. I am going to keep my feelings to myself and just hope I get over it, I really thought I would of by now.
It must be disturbing to hear someone you briefly worked with loves you but it was getting too much to ignore.
HazelJuly 16th, 2015 at 10:11 AM
I am in the very same position ,l have fallen in love with my therapist and its really difficult as, like you l wouldn’t dare tell him as l am ashamed and like you l have never had a therapist before..Most of my thoughts of him are erotic and its as if l have formed an imaginary relationship with him where he has taken the form of the man of my dreams.l want to continue therapy but don’t know if l should .
MarcoNovember 30th, 2015 at 2:49 PM
I understand how you feel and I know it’s instantly dismissed as ‘transference’ which I guess it is some of the time but surely not all of the time?
I don’t know how old you are but at 44 now I think I know when I’ve fallen in love. I know no one seems to except it can happen so I genuinely feel for you.
The problem is as we’ve come into this as clients I except there are professional boundaries which I wish so hard weren’t there but unfortunately are.
As you’re a woman it might be concidered a bit less troublesome but I wouldn’t of felt right continuing myself knowing I’d fallen madly in love with her.
I hope you have managed your situation better than I have.
MarcoNovember 30th, 2015 at 5:02 PM
Just to add I didn’t mention that I told her I’d fallen in love with her. She didn’t really make any issue of it or barely acknowledged it. I guess that was how they are trained to deal with these situations ?
I was told that this transference is perfectly normal but I just can’t see how feeling so in love is just a symptom of normal therapy?
As I’ve never had it before I’ve nothing to go on but by my last visit I was literally losing control of myself. I do have standing issues with self control but I know if it’s just a case of pure lust and I felt so much more for her.
Have you told your therapist how you feel ?
I’m sure they hear it on a weekly basis but I’ve never felt this before.
JSBNovember 30th, 2015 at 10:19 PM
First, I must say that I am not a therapist, and so everything I say is from my experience and also from what I’ve read on the subject.
There is a terrific book on transference for women called IN SESSION. It’s out of print, but may be helpful to you, even though you are male, because truly, our gender or even our sexuality has little to do with the attraction. In other words, straight women experience transference with female therapists, but that doesn’t make them gay at all. Just means they have issues from childhood to look at and deal with.
For me, I discovered that it was about finding someone who accepts me unconditionally 100%.
I grew up knowing I was “different” at a very young age, and by that, I mean I came to discover that what was different about me is that I’m a lesbian. So as a young kid until my twenties I hid who I truly am so no one could hurt me. And so I was in the habit of denying who I was in order to protect myself, and that turned into self loathing. There were other things in life that caused me to put up walls– when we’re kids we don’t know how to protect ourselves so we do the best we can. The problem is, we sometimes (often times) carry over those “rules” and defense mechanisms into our adult life.
So we start therapy and there’s someone who accepts us 100%. Who’s patient, non-judgmental, and gives us his or her undivided attention for the entire session. We pay them, that’s their job. That’s not to say that they aren’t genuine and caring, but it is their job to keel the focus on OUR issues and not their issues or their lives. So we don’t really know them. We don’t see their struggles, or fears, or anything else, except them taking the time to help us grow as people–and they’re on their best behaviour during our sessions.
It makes perfect sense that we would feel love towards this person. And yes, some people experience erotic transference.
The way that transference became helpful for me was that, because I didn’t WANT those feelings towards my therapist (they came out of left field!), I looked into WHY it was happening.
Of course I realized the obvious: she cares about me and accepts me 100%.
I also discovered that the transference was masking a TON of pain I had pushed into my subconscious due to a childhood trauma. One of my defense mechanisms was to get infatuated with people I couldn’t have.
So, through transference, I discovered why this was the case: I was protecting myself from the pain underneath the feelings. Plus I felt safe with my therapist. It was easier to feel the transference than the pain. That makes sense, right. But I need to face the pain, so I had to discuss the transference.
And yes, I told her via email everything I mentioned above. She normalized it for me, explained what it is, and also explained countertransference. She made it clear that I can always talk about anything in session.
Some modalities don’t deal with transference. For example, CBT (cognitive behavior therapists) tend not to be trained in transference, as CBT deals with current feelings.
Again, I’m not a therapist, please understand that I’m simply making suggestions.
Another thing you might want to consider, that I have read in many books and articles, is going to a different therapist to discuss and explore the transference you have with your former therapist. Maybe a male therapist?
Again, gender doesn’t often matter with regard to transference, but you might just feel more comfortable talking about this strong attraction with a male therapist.
Transference CAN be a great tool to discover more about why we do things we do, etc. But if you get out of control, as you say, discussing it with your former therapist, I might suggest discussing this with a different therapist and see how that goes?
I understand what you’re going through and I understand you must be I’m a lot of pain, and even confused (it IS confusing, right?). You deserve to talk to a professional about this. And yes, my therapist said that she, and most therapists, are trained in transference and counter transference, and she even said that she’s trained to notice when a patient is experiencing transference, but they wait for the patient to bring it up (unless the patient is acting out…flirting, etc.) to give the patient space and wait until the client feels comfortable and is ready to bring it up.
So yes, it IS embarrassing, but it’s also a normal part of therapy.
Good luck, Marco.
You deserve to feel better!
MarcoDecember 1st, 2015 at 7:00 PM
Hello jsb. I think I understand what you’re saying, In fact up until now the whole transference thing hasn’t made any sense to me because I know what I felt and still do feel is love but put into the context you have here i at least feel a come to understand what you’re saying.
I have different issues to you as I know my sexuality certainly isn’t in question but almost to a fault.I feel ultra hetrosexual to the point that if any woman is even vaguely nice to me I become attracted.
I know that sounds like something someone with denial issues would probably say but it’s really how I am, I don’t have any problem if someone’s gay-bi whatever I just know I have always had strong desires for women and if they pay any sort of attention to me I sometimes let my weakness take over.
This was My one and only therapist in all my life I’ve never told anyone what I told her,she never did anything to suggest any sort of personal feelings for me and until the last few weeks I’d never thought about her in an inappropriate way but almost over night I fell in love so hard I had to cancel our sessions even though I wanted to see her more than ever.
I don’t think further therapy is somewhere I need to go, I’m very private generally and even telling one person my problems felt very odd to me, it’s just not who I am.
Even though I feel stupid about what’s happened I think I’ve gained some good from this all in all , I still feel a lot for her which unfortunately means I know I can’t go back.
I know I can deal with it. I have overcome all my problems by myself before and maybe this is a lesson that I don’t need to involve anyone else?
JSBDecember 2nd, 2015 at 1:00 AM
First of all, nothing you are doing or feeling is “stupid”. If anything, you should be proud that you faced your fears and sought therapy in the first place. You should be proud of that, especially since you are, as you say, not usually one to share your thoughts easily with others.
I just read this wonderful article I think might help you feel better about your feelings towards your therapist (I hope the link works!)…
If the link doesn’t work, you can cut and paste the url into your browser.
MarcoDecember 2nd, 2015 at 2:28 PM
Ok thanks, I’ll give it a read now.
I just wish after leaving therapy for several months I’d just left it there and not brought it up again.
Thanks for your help, I hope things go well for you too.
MarcoFebruary 21st, 2016 at 2:29 PM
I don’t know if this is still a live thread now? I remember getting some good advise and I did manage to slow things down but a few months down the line I’m still madly in love with her! I’ve not made any contact at all but think of her daily and have had more wet dreams over her which make me so guilty but I just cannot shake her. I want to call,her all the time, I’ve never felt like this about anyone before.
Each time I think I’m over her, another wave of lust hits me. I’m just so frustrated I don’t know what to do anymore.
JohnMarch 19th, 2016 at 12:29 PM
Thank you for sharing this experience. I was seeing an online e therapist for several months for relationship issues, when she decided to explore my past trsuma. It totally consumed me to the point I seriously considered suicide.
Along the way I became really attached to her and felt like I was in love with her. This made me feel really foolish. I brought it up to her and said I knew it was transference. She said, “oh, you know about transference, we don’t need to discuss this.” I took it to mean she was really uncomfortable and not open to discussing it. It killed me. I had wild swings of emotion towards her, deep affection, then anger.
Along the way she became quite cold and uncari g, and started pushing an approach which I told her I wasn’t ready for.
I finally spent an entire day pacing in my house trying desperately not to kill myself. I talked to a therapist I. Person a d decided to terminate the relationship. I had to.
Thing is, there’s no closure. I break down crying just thinking about it, or it makes me feel with anger. It’s been months and the pain is really fresh. I’m too embarrassed to talk to anybody about it, but I feel like I’m dying inside.
GoodTherapy AdminMarch 19th, 2016 at 8:13 PM
Thank you for your comment. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about self harm at https://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-self-harm.html and additional information about what to do in a crisis at https://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html
The GoodTherapy.org Team
MarcoMarch 20th, 2016 at 3:24 PM
I hope you’re not still having those feelings john. While I’m still devistated I can’t say I’ve ever felt suicidal fortunately. I actually had therapy at her house which made it feel more personal
I still think of her constantly after several months now of not seeing her. Doesn’t feel like it’ll ever go away. Hope you get sorted mate.
JohnMarch 21st, 2016 at 3:38 AM
Thanks Marco. I still struggle with those feelings nearly every day. I don’t know if I’ll ever get it sorted. I think I’m just broken.
Suki MJune 7th, 2016 at 6:54 AM
HI, Marco, John and all others who I have just read about, dealing with (therapy Love) (Transference). I feel for you all, And I know how hard it can be, I had this happen to me, A couple of years ago.. I started to have strong feelings for my therapist, ( I am female, and he was male).. I told him how I felt.. as, I had read Alot about, that is the rite thing to do. Anyway, he was at this time, saying some people cant cope without therapy when it ends.. I didnt know what that meant at that time.. Then he ended my sessions, and I was a complete mess.. I felt he had abandoned me, I tried to speak to him on phone.. and he said ” I am NOT your freind” I found this very upsetting. After Alot of tears, I thank God that my faith in Jesus Christ.. helped me hope.. Then this time, I been in therapy for just over one year.. and a few weeks ago, I found I had feelings for my therapist . (this is a different therapist).. I told him I felt attached to him.. he didnt say much.. he just said..this happened to me before.. I felt so stupid.. and now, when I call him, he don’t answer my calls, I am seeing him tomorrow, for my ocd.. I was thinking of not going,, but then he could think, I dont need his help with my ocd. and I do.. Also he seems more strict and not as freindly.. what had helped me about is prayers from other Christians , which has made the feelings be Alot less. I hope and pray that you may all have peace and be able to overcome this awful. stuff.. Don’t feel bad.. Sending all my love, to you all. :)
Suki MJune 7th, 2016 at 7:01 AM
But my therapist is a good therapist, I feel he was being very kind, cos don’t want me to have Ocd.. and I know he cares about me. Just want to ask him, tomorrow, whether he sees me different, not, since I told him about the feelings I had.. (which, I hope have gone now!). :)
MarcoJune 7th, 2016 at 6:12 PM
Hello, I hope things go well for you. I am still not over my feelings after a year now but I just have to accept it. I’m not a Christian but if that helps you then I’m pleased for you.
She is still on my thoughts daily.
MaryJune 15th, 2016 at 6:52 PM
I know this is an old thread but I’m really struggling with this as well. I don’t think I am in love with him as much as I’m infatuated with him. He is a DBT therapist and he’s the only therapist that I have been honest with, except for this. DBT therapy takes a different approach where you learn to use skills to regulate emotions. DBT therapists are also very validating which may explain why I’m slightly obsessed. He never judges, he’s empathetic, he’s encouraging, he’s funny and very helpful. With DBT, you have a different relationship than with a CBT therapist. You are able to call and text when you need extra help. I find myself thinking about him a lot. He went out of the country this week and I’ve been anxious and irritable. We won’t have another session until late next week and I’m so bothered by that. I don’t want to stop seeing him, but I need to figure out a way to deal with this. I’ve never had this with another therapist. Not sure what to do.
GeorgetteJuly 30th, 2016 at 10:54 PM
Hi everyone, I’ve just begun seeing a therapist about a month ago and I felt an immediate attraction to him when we met. My question is, should I nip this in the bud and get out before my attraction grows stronger? I may be misinterpreting him but I think he may be attracted to me as well. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that this may not be transference if we’ve had only four sessions?
MarcoAugust 1st, 2016 at 3:16 PM
Maybe you should say something?
Is it transference, I don’t see why it has to be just because he’s your therapist.
JohnAugust 2nd, 2016 at 7:24 AM
I would mention your feelings to him, and your concerns. I would get out before having a relationship with a therapist, but you may not have to. Working through transference can be very healing.
Richard Loebl, LCSW, BCDAugust 2nd, 2016 at 11:47 AM
This is in response to the last few comments by Suki, Mary, Georgette and others. First, Georgette, I’ve been in situations where transference begins in the first session! As a young intern many years ago I believe I “fell in love” with my own therapist at the time (she reminded me of a young Joni Mitchell). Various levels of attraction to a therapist are completely normal. This includes emotional, intellectual and physical attraction. We are all wired for attachment, and attraction to other people. Our wiring does not discriminate, and it doesn’t matter if we already have a primary attachment to a lover, partner or spouse. I’ve conducted successful therapies with several people who professed their feelings and attraction to me. Transference can be quite positive, and even an enhancement to therapy. And there have been a small number of times when the transference interfered with the therapy. In all cases I suggest an frank, open discussion with your therapist. If the therapist is dismissive or insensitive in any way, I suggest you express your concerns about that. If it cannot be resolved within one or two sessions, it may be time to ask for a referral to another therapist. I hope this information is helpful. Richard Loebl
GeorgetteAugust 3rd, 2016 at 9:06 AM
Thank you Marco, John, and Richard!
JessicaNovember 6th, 2016 at 10:13 PM
This conversation thread has been sooo helpful to me. One thing that is very comforting is that we are not alone in our feelings. I too am in love with my therapist. I struggled with it for years, and finally my feelings got so strong I fantasized about suicide all the time. If our relationship ship couldn’t be more, I didn’t want to live. But recently I’ve grown to understand it in a new way.
People say we can’t really be in love with our therapists, because we don’t know them. Well, that may or may not be, but it doesn’t make the feelings any less real. And besides, I know enough about my therapist to know SONETHING of her, from our conversations on world events and her genuine reactions, to conversations about Trump and surrounding ideologies, to idle chit chat about vacations and how similar we are in our travels. This is a person I’m compatible with. Period. It doesn’t mean I “know” her, but it also means it’s not purely based on getting one hour a week where she lavished me with attention. There is something more real than that. It’s somewhere in between.
But what I’ve learned… by being able to talk to her about it and explore the issue of transference, I’ve come to see that being in love in therapy (a totally safe place) has enabled me to feel love in a totally safe place. And that is huge growth. And just maybe now, I’ll recognize it when I see it in the real world. My therapist provided me with an example of who I want to love.
Having said that, I am one of the lucky ones who had a therapist that totally normalized it for me, and was open and gentle. It is not always the case. If folks are worried about the reaction, there might be a way to test the waters with your therapist. Like saying “what do you know about transference?” and you would sense a lot from the way they approach the question. You’ll know pretty quickly if they would be open to the conversation without actually having to say it. If they shut it down you could choose to go on with therapy and focus on what brought you there. But remind yourself that what you’re feeling is normal, maybe even healthy! You’re learning to feel love and discover what it has to offer from a supportive person. That’s a great lesson.
In my experience, though, I’ve gone a lot further in my healing with the therapist who WAS willing to talk about it. I had 11 therapists before her, and 10 of them did me more damage than good. I believe strongly in therapy (it has literally saved my life), but finding the right therapist is key
JohnNovember 7th, 2016 at 11:02 AM
I’m so glad to hear you had this experience turn out positively for you. It’s interesting that you had been through 10 therapists before finding this one. I don’t think I could have stuck with it for so long. I’m glad your therapist was willing to talk about it – mine kind of blew me off then made me feel like a terrible person.
It’s now been a year since I’ve talked to the the therapist who caused so much damage. I’m not convinced of the greatness of therapy. I’m still working with a therapist, and I feel like we have boundary issues, but I don’t want to bring it up because I just can’t go through this stuff again. I also have a real fear about being judged.
I know therapists are not supposed to judge, but that has not been my experience. The therapist who caused me so much harm was very judgemental. I also have an old friend who is a therapist. We had dinner with her recently and she went on and on about her clients and how awful they are. I could help shake the feeling that my therapist talks about me behind my back like that.
JessicaNovember 7th, 2016 at 5:32 PM
I am so sorry you went through that. My heart goes out to all the people on this blog who have not had a good experience telling their therapists about their feelings.
It’s true that therapists are not supposed to judge, but that hasn’t been my experience either. One therapist dropped me after I said I was gay because of potential transference, I was not in love with her but it crushed me. I needed help. Another one told me she had a wait list of people with bigger problems than me after only 2 sessions. Another said I seemed too removed for my stories to be true. They were the 3 who dropped me as a client. That is so devastating. But for me, therapy is not a choice, it is mere survival so I had to keep trying. I have complex ptsd and ocd which rule my life unless I have someone to help me manage it all.
It wasn’t easy to keep going. In fact, i didn’t fully trust my current therapist for over 10 years. She was helping me manage my symptoms but I never fully opened up about my abuse until more than 10 years had passed, because of what other therapists had said and done. It is hard to find the right therapist for you but it is so worthwhile when you do. I try to remind myself that even though therapists aren’t supposed to judge, they’re people, and people do things they’re not supposed to do all the time. It’s not right, but it’s not our fault.
Despite my happy ending in terms of telling my therapist my feelings, it is still hard. I have met someone who consumes my thoughts who I can’t ever be with. I cry myself to sleep at night. It’s only been a few months since I stopped contemplating suicide, but there are MOMENTS when those thoughts come back. But slowly, more and more, the joy of allowing myself to feel pure love is replacing the pain. I hope some day to meet someone else I can fall in love with.
I can’t imagine what some of these folks writing have gone through. To have my therapist ripped away from me might just kill me. That especially includes the writer of the original question.
Good luck to you and I am glad for our sakes we came across this forum. What happened to you is wrong. I am glad you are continuing with therapy even though it’s not perfect. Give it time, it takes a long time to heal from an experience like yours. Therapy will get better if you trust it will.
MarcoNovember 17th, 2016 at 1:46 PM
I still wish everyday I hadn’t said I’m in love with her as not seeing her at all is much worse than seeing her with secret desires.
KayMarch 1st, 2017 at 12:51 AM
Marco, it must be hard to be struggling with these challenging feelings for so long, without a sense of how to let go. It sounds like you do not want to be continuing to feel like this, and yet something about the love experience is hard to let go of. Continuing to feel love for your former therapist but being unable to see her or find resolution is painful. I am currently training (in supervision) as a clinical mental health therapist, and have personally experienced highly intense, addictive/ obsessive love myself in the past (in one case semi-consummated and in the other, never progressed beyond a professional relationship – these were with peers, not clients or therapists). However, I found ways to explore the reasons behind them and eventually resolve my feelings so I could move on with my life and bond to someone else within a healthy, reciprocal and long-term romantic relationship. I found reading up on “limerence” or “love addiction” to be particularly helpful. There are different kinds of love, and love itself is a beautiful, inspiring thing that makes life feel amazing; however it can sometimes drive us crazy and become unbalanced and an intense form of suffering. In that case it is a good idea to find a way to heal and move on; this could happen within therapy with someone else or we can do it on our own with supportive resources. While I did feel a real love for these people (e.g., desired their happiness and wellbeing, and really cared about them) it was important for me to recognize the way in which my mind was ‘objectifying’ them too – because I did not have a chance to really get to know them well over a long period of time, as complete human beings who were intimately sharing their inner worlds with me, in some ways the person I loved was really a projection of myself, of my own mind. This is the nature of fantasy, which is very like dreams. It helped me to start to notice how my mind was creating a reality on its own, creating a person for me to love in fact, because there was minimal real-world input about who they really were.
Some questions to consider for anyone feeling caught up in a one-sided love attachment, love addiction or obsessive form of love (whether requited or not): “What purpose is this love serving for me?” “What aspects of myself are being reflected or represented by this person I love (or my image/perception of them)?” “If I were to be free from this love, what would that look like?” “What is this love keeping me from seeing, or doing, or feeling?” “When I picture a relationship in which equal love is shared and exchanged, what do I think and/or feel?” “What about this particular person inspired a love like this?” “What qualities does this person have that I resonate with?” “What do I need in order to let go?” “Am I ready to let go, and if not, why?” “Is it true that I wish we could be in a real relationship? Am I 100% certain that being in a relationship with them is what I want, or what should happen? If not, then what would be more true?”
Sometimes we may find that the person we really need to connect with and love is our own self – that we need to rediscover the love within ourselves, for ourselves. All this love is pouring outward toward someone who is not even really benefiting from it. Thus usually the highest good would actually be to redirect it back towards ourselves through self-compassion and comforting the parts of ourselves that feel alone, abandoned, despondent, grieved, empty, worthless, afraid. The ability to feel love, even intensely, is a powerful gift, a way in which we can sense the divine within us. What can we do to allow that love to become more generalized and unconditional, such that we are able to embrace not only *all* the parts of ourselves with love but also all the people (and animals and plants, etc.) around us. For is it not somewhat tragic to have all that healing, beautiful love energy being directed towards one person only (and mostly one within our mind), out of all the other beautiful lifeforms of this world? The conclusion I have reached is we do not need to be afraid of loving, only of loving too narrowly.
night owlNovember 16th, 2016 at 4:54 PM
reading the recent posts ive been in theraphy over 3 months now, and I have a great theraptic relationship with my T we have a really good connection and I love it, am not in love with her or have any feelings in that way for her, but I do love her like a mother and just this week, I have told her that i love her (even if she didnt feel the same) and her reply was of course I do…..ive also told her I have adopted her has my mother, she said we will talk about it in our session which am not looking forward, but know she has taken it well…in past conversations shes said she cared about me and ive asked did she care professional or personal and the reponse was she cared if someone who knows me well, which I didnt really understand what thats meant to me.
JohnNovember 17th, 2016 at 3:53 PM
I had an issue with my current therapist blowing off my appointments recently. I told her that I didn’t feel like I was a priority for her. She said, “all my clients are a priority after my family, my child, and my health.” And she went on to say, “I care about you.” I found it really triggering and it made me really mad. I’m sure she has some compassion for me, but it’s not caring – not in any real human sense of the word. The second you stop paying your therapist, the relationship is over. It’s designed to be totally one-sided with boundaries and no disclosures. That’s fine, but don’t pretend that this is some kind of personally caring relationship. I think people who are incredibly vulnerable latch on to that promise of a caring relationship, and it becomes so hard once you realize that it’s not real.
Aphid BoyDecember 24th, 2016 at 3:23 PM
I myself have very deep feelings for an acupuncturist I used to have. She was a very big blessing to my health at the time. She gave me hope in my life that I thought was long lost. One day, something just clicked inside of me and all I could think about was her. A few months later, I wrote her a letter telling her that I had developed feelings for her and would no long be seeing her. I really wanted to transition to some one new wile having a very professional interaction between her. Unfortunately, she never responded to me or my letter. Almost a year later, I still think about her.
Aphid BoyDecember 24th, 2016 at 6:10 PM
I have seen many counselors. I never seam to be able to get over those feelings for her. In many ways, she is the only person who I feel really understood me.
I will say it’s nice to have this forum here. This is something that there isn’t a whole lot out there for support. When I bring it up to other people of therapeutic trades, it’s like i have emotional herpies or something. I have been around many women of therapeutic trades, and have had no issues with attachment with them, but she understood me so well. My feelings twords her are held are held in such high regard, but I hate this attachment so much. Everything in my body tells me it’s wrong, but my heart tells me something else.
NightowlDecember 26th, 2016 at 6:56 AM
I am just sitting here and this thought came into my head…..We sit here and post our personal experiences within our therapy journal and peronal thoughts and feeling about our Ts that we may not be able to bring up within our sessions due to scared of the unknown reaction we might get and reactions others have posted about. Just a question and thought what if our T’s come on here reading our comments and know it’s you. Awkward or what??
JohnDecember 26th, 2016 at 4:21 PM
It’s a good point. In my case, it’s an ex therapist. I don’t really care. But I’d be careful not to post identifiable information online. I’m not sure what the effect would be if a T read something and recognized a client. I guess something to consider.
Aphid BoyDecember 26th, 2016 at 5:56 PM
Eh. There’s some pretty odd people out there. Hearing that some has feelings for them unless they are out on there own for the first time is probably “Snoozeville” for them. Unless you tried to pull some kind of “stunt” should be no problem.
Aphid BoyDecember 26th, 2016 at 4:34 PM
I have this feeling that once away from sessions, most T’s want to get away from work and focus on their own life’s.
MarcoDecember 27th, 2016 at 6:07 PM
How on earth would have they know who it is even if they did happen to look on this site and these particular comments ? There are 7 billion people on the planet and any comments could easily be from anyone of them.
NightowlDecember 26th, 2016 at 5:45 PM
Not really because I found out about Good Therapy website off my T so know she uses the site.
Aphid BoyDecember 30th, 2016 at 9:46 PM
Some days are better than others. Sometimes I think I’m past those feelings for her…then something’s triggers the way I would feel twords her.
MarcoMarch 29th, 2017 at 6:02 PM
Thank you Kay, you have put into words a lot of things I couldn’t of began to rationally articulate and I have taken some new and open minded thought processes from what you’ve said.
I get to the point now of feeling a lot better most of the time but I still haven’t managed to shake my feelings entirely even though I know now I have no future with her, I’ve pretty much spent my whole life not being able to express my true feelings to the one I feel closest too so it’s actually no departure from the norm for me now.
I don’t like asking people for help anyway especially with relationships, I’d rather suffer in silence than kick up a big drama. It’s almost become where I feel most comfortable now. As much as I still want her I don’t know what I’d do if I got my wish now?
Aphid BoyMarch 30th, 2017 at 6:16 AM
Wow, that’s deep. It’s pretty much the same way I feel now. :/
Still EvolvingDecember 21st, 2021 at 9:28 AM
I feel for you. I too have “fallen in love” with my therapist. I too understand and have studied transference and countertransference. It does not take away the immense love I feel for this human being that just happened to be my therapist. I have disclosed to him my feelings, tried to work through them, only to be left feeling completely shattered. I do not appreciate being told that what I feel that is so different and special about this person is not really love, but transference. I wish you well on your healing. I wish I had words of wisdom but I don’t. I am trying my best to move on and pick myself back up and hope that healing happens and that these feelings eventually go away. All I can say is don’t shame yourself. You must have a beautiful heart full of love you just want to share with someone that has touched you deeply. That is a beautiful thing and nothing to feel ashamed of.
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