Should I Tell My Therapist I Have a Crush on Him?

I've been seeing my therapist weekly for eight months. I really, really like him as a person, he relates well with me and treats me with the utmost respect. He's done a lot to help me with my depression, anxiety, and some grief I experienced after my last relationship ended. I know therapists aren't supposed to talk about themselves, and for the most part he does keep things pretty close to the vest, but every now and then I get a little factoid about him. These little snippets of who he is are adding up over time, and I now feel like I know him beyond his capacity as my therapist. I know, for example, that he's not married (he let that slip), and all signs point to no kids. He has not in any way expressed any interest in me. In fact, he has been entirely professional even when I have expressed things to him that he could easily take as flirtatious. I have been far from overt, mind you—just little harmless things here and there. It's not like me to "go after" a guy, let alone aggressively. I am too afraid of rejection. But I am starting to realize I cannot deny the crush I'm developing on my therapist, and I have decided I'm going to tell him about it soon. I am so afraid of how he will react. Will he stop seeing me? Will he refer me to someone else? Will he deflect my interest and push on? Will he be flattered? Will he admit to sharing my feelings and ask me out? (Swoon!) I know it's highly unlikely he feels the way about me I do about him, and I imagine there are rules against having relationships with clients, so I'm not getting my hopes up. I just feel like I need to put it out there that I have a crush on him. What should I expect? Am I nuts for bringing it up? —Crushing Client
Dear Crushing,

Thank you for reaching out with this honest question. I commend you for having the courage to admit this is happening and to seek counsel for it.

You may be surprised to know that what you are experiencing with your therapist isn’t uncommon. In fact, what you are likely experiencing is a phenomenon known as “erotic transference,” which is when a person experiences feelings of love or fantasies of a sexual or sensual nature about his or her therapist.

It is easy to see why you might have developed these feelings. Your therapist may embody many, if not all, of the qualities you may desire in an ideal mate. The therapist is accepting, attentive, kind, and nonjudgmental and, for at least an hour every week, fully engaged with you. One of the problems with this sort of situation is that you are falling for an image you have of the therapist, not for who the therapist actually is. You know very little about him, and you have used your imagination to fill in the rest. You have created a fantasy of sorts of your unmet needs and have imagined that the therapist is that person.

It is not “nuts” to share this with your therapist—in fact, it can actually become a significant turning point in your relationship with him. In many cases, this deepens the therapeutic work and allows you to process things on a much deeper level. It will take courage and trust for you to share this with your therapist, but taking that kind of risk in therapy is necessary for growth.

It is not “nuts” to share this with your therapist—in fact, it can actually become a significant turning point in your relationship with him. In many cases, this deepens the therapeutic work and allows you to process things on a much deeper level.

There are a number of ways in which your therapist might respond. Ideally, he will be able to help you recognize what is going on beneath the “crush” in order to get to the deeper material. Many times, therapists in this situation are able to work with the person in therapy and generate meaningful transformation.

Of course, if he is not comfortable with continuing work with you, he may refer you to another therapist. Unfortunately, there is no way I can offer a definitive answer as to how he might respond.

What he ought not do is share that he has similar feelings or act on any feelings. As you mentioned, there are rules in every state that forbid romantic relationships between therapists and the people they help for a certain time period after termination of the therapy (it depends on your state). Regardless of state regulations, the ethics code of the American Counseling Association (2014) specifies that there must be a five-year period between the end of the counseling relationship and the start of a sexual or romantic relationship. It would be highly inappropriate, unprofessional, and, yes, illegal for your therapist to do anything other than work with you through this or refer you to someone else.

I hope you can navigate this with grace and recognize that what you feel can be and often is a part of the therapeutic relationship. In fact, I can’t think of one therapist I know who hasn’t experienced this, so please don’t feel as though you are an anomaly. It’s very normal, but the important thing is how you handle it; be honest, sit with his response, and most of all, treat yourself with the deepest level of care and compassion you can muster.

Best wishes,
Lisa

Lisa Vallejos
Lisa Vallejos, PhD, LPC, specializes in existential psychology. Her primary focus is helping people to be more present in their lives, more engaged with their existence, and to face the world with courage. Lisa began her career in the mental health field working in residential treatment, community mental health centers, and with adjudicated individuals before moving into private practice. She is in the process of finishing a PhD as well as advanced training in existential-humanistic psychotherapy, and provides clinical training and supervision.
  • 23 comments
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  • addie

    addie

    January 2nd, 2016 at 5:22 PM

    yes I would tell so he could help you find someone else to work with, I think that it would be too uncomfortable to work with him after telling.

  • Kim

    Kim

    January 4th, 2016 at 5:04 PM

    Ugh I think that this would put everyone in an awkward situation
    I think that if you think that you can go through with therapy without this getting in the way of progress then this is information that should most definitely be withheld.

  • Marco

    Marco

    January 5th, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    Just keep that one as your own little secret. It’s not like if this is a professional that they are ever going to drop everything and then get involved with you. Keep it as your own secret little crush, gives you something to look forward to every now and then when you go to their office.

  • Katrina

    Katrina

    January 6th, 2016 at 11:19 AM

    This has to be very common when you are working with someone who helps you in so many ways, and you start to think that this is the kind of person that you need to have in your life, and then you think why not this person? I would guess that this is pretty common, but that most of the time after you have those initial crush kind of feelings that you will start to see that this is not feasible and you can just appreciate this person for what they are doing for you, not that you have to be in a relationship with them.

  • Lorraine

    Lorraine

    January 6th, 2016 at 6:12 PM

    Oh for heaven sake, keep quiet. This is an age old common problem. Just keep quiet or leave.

  • David S

    David S

    June 23rd, 2016 at 6:06 AM

    You’re wrong. As long as this person knows that her therapist is off limits she should tell him. I’m going to share with my therapist that I have a crush that I want to go away. I’m also going to tell her that I know she is off limits.

  • KB

    KB

    January 6th, 2016 at 6:33 PM

    Its called transference . . . . normal and if you talk about it with your therapist he will help you work through it and make you find the reasons you are going through transference .. it actually has nothing to do with the therapist but more about what is missing in your life transferring those feelings onto your therapist … Its very normal and nothing to be ashamed of! Its not healthy to keep it from your therapist because it will get in the way of your healing .. trust me, the therapist will know how to handle it.

  • Ala

    Ala

    January 8th, 2016 at 1:26 PM

    Snap out of it. In your dreams, not ever going to happen. It is against the LAW. Any good therapist would refer you to someone else. Find an accessible man!

  • donna

    donna

    January 8th, 2016 at 4:54 PM

    It’s common to develop “feelings” of transference. For your continued healing it’s best to discuss with your therapist. Your therapist is not going to be unprofessional but will talk to you & either help you process the feelings and /or refer to another therapist. You will eventually see that it was an image you created of your ideal mate with qualities you desire in a mate.

  • Counter

    Counter

    January 8th, 2016 at 7:50 PM

    Why not be honest with the therapist. Love Or hate or disappointment or reverence, why not share the feeling?
    The therapeutic relationship is one of the top 5 topics clients discuss, and the most important one in terms of moving the rapport along, progressively.
    The erotic transference is completely expected, and like all topics, needs to be talked about

  • Larry

    Larry

    June 23rd, 2016 at 8:15 PM

    curious about what the other 4 are ?

  • Tiffany

    Tiffany

    May 15th, 2016 at 3:52 PM

    As a therapist myself, I can guarantee you the feeling is not mutual. He is doing his job by being supportive. It would be unethical otherwise. It may cause him to think that the therapeutic relationship has been compromised and he may need to refer you to someone else. If you want to share this with him don’t expect him to welcome those thoughts with open arms.

  • David S

    David S

    June 23rd, 2016 at 5:55 AM

    You’re wrong, Tiffany! I have feelings for my therapist that I want to not have! I’m going to talk to her about it and as a professional, she will help me work through it. I understand that she’s 150% off limits, and I will let her know that.

  • Dr. Lisa Vallejos

    Dr. Lisa Vallejos

    June 24th, 2016 at 2:09 PM

    Sadly, Tiffany, that is not correct. Many therapists have crossed that line and have caused significant harm to their clients and our profession.

  • Anonymous McAnonymous

    Anonymous McAnonymous

    June 25th, 2016 at 1:44 PM

    It is fine to address this with your therapist if you want to get over the feelings. I’m very nervous about doing this, but I am going to tell her. I’m going to tell her about my crush and that I realize she is completely off limits. I will feel better after doing this and she will help me.

  • PoisonArrow

    PoisonArrow

    July 5th, 2016 at 1:25 PM

    I told my counsellor I loved him, he understood and said he was married but he would help me work through it, I felt bad for telling him but I had to tell the truth, nothing further was mentioned which was good

  • blusunset

    blusunset

    September 13th, 2016 at 11:00 PM

    All these comments are so helpful. I was starting to crush on my therapist, but I see now what it is and it makes perfect sense! I prefer not to say anything, because he’s really helping me through important stuff, and I have no idea how he will respond.

  • PoisonArrow

    PoisonArrow

    September 14th, 2016 at 11:02 AM

    I think the term is called “Transference”
    I won’t be entering into any sort of relationship with my Therapist, I think at the time I just needed some sort comfort, however looking at the bigger picture this is not healthy for both parties and best to leave it.

  • EG

    EG

    November 10th, 2016 at 8:02 AM

    I have a huge crush on my therapist. We’ve only just began our sessions (there were 3 to be exact). The moment i saw him for the first time, i got weak in the knees. I haven’t had a reaction like this for anyone for 16 years. I don’t know what to do. Should i tell him? Should i just stop seeing him? He lives very close to my, we bump into each other on the street, or in the supermarket. I can’t stop thinking about him, it’s like a torture….

  • catherine

    catherine

    May 19th, 2017 at 7:05 PM

    I’ve been seeing my psychiatrist for twenty years….he’s brilliant and extremely dependable. Of course I love him…I’m grateful he’s available to me. I have no illusions about anything between him and I except doc/patient.

  • salma

    salma

    May 30th, 2017 at 3:15 PM

    i love my psychiatrist

  • Rina

    Rina

    October 25th, 2017 at 3:38 PM

    I am beginning to have feelings for my therapist and am also wondering if i should tell her or not. I know she is married and off limlits. But i too would like to understand why i am feeling this way about her.

  • A Psychiatrist

    A Psychiatrist

    October 26th, 2017 at 2:55 PM

    I work with patients daily who trust me with their thoughts, their secrets, their emotions and their most personal information. I am honoured to be able to assist them in their journeys to healing. I care for them as people, but only in the way that someone shows common decency to others. Sometimes, if working with a teen (especially one struggling a lot with self esteem), I will tell them that he or she is likable, that I think he or she is a good person. I will point out his or her strengths and try and empower them. This is my job, to help each person address their hurts, heal, and see their true potential. My patients listen to what I say and I feel it is very important for them to hear of the positives, as so much of the world doesn’t build a person up. Persons from chaotic backgrounds have a very negative distorted self image, which I repeatedly challenge, gently wearing it down. I work with a number of survivors of sexual abuse, even persons with DID. I give honest feedback to all, but try to keep it kind (Bambi’s mother was smart). I know some of my patients care deeply for me. With my profession comes the utmost responsibility – to never harm a patient. I may be the first healthy attachment figure he or she has met. If a patient had feelings that needed to be explored, I would happily help them understand why they are viewing me in a particular light. Therapy is meant to be a supportive environment to work through ones feelings. A person likely has many ‘relationships’ in his or her life, but only a few good therapists. My patients need me in the therapist role. I will happily help them navigate relationships with other.
    If you are disclosing your feelings to your therapist or psychiatrist, I think that is reasonable; it is important to understand why you are ‘attracted’ to him or her. However, I would say sexually explicit comments are NOT appropriate to share, as I think that crosses a line and it may be difficult to continue the therapeutic relationship at that point.
    I agree with KB, donna and Counter above.

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