Attachment to Your Therapist II

attached-to-therapist-2

*** Now Available: Attachment to Your Therapist: A Conversation. This series of posts in expanded E-Book form, on Amazon.***

I just received this comment about my earlier post on “Attachment to Your Therapist.” The reader is really asking about therapist attachment to patients. It deserves an answer.

As someone who fits within the looked after her parents category, I have a fear about what you say at the end of this incredible article. My therapist gives everything she can to make this grieving process easier (and I do my best to talk about it, despite the humiliation). I can’t help but wonder, after she has given so much how will it be for her if I suddenly reach such a cold conclusion to therapy – with others being more interesting and me just being happy to say goodbye. It seems so cold. Yes, I may pay for her time – but she gives the rest generously. Would such a conclusion not hurt her?

First, a little more about the therapeutic relationship. Marlin Potash, who blogs in “Feeling Up in Down Times” describes the excellent concept of “Therapy Love.” What is so special about the therapy hour, which Dr. Potash describes as a “bubble” is that it exists outside the mainstream of life. All you see is the best of another human. You see someone who is wholly focused on you and has no visible needs or concerns of her (or his) own. If you are being demanding or difficult, your therapist may not do what you ask, but will not get angry or retaliate. If you criticize, she will take your concerns seriously without getting defensive and will try to help you sort out what part might be yours and what part is hers. Wow! How many relationships are like that?On the other hand, this ideal person is someone you don’t really know. You know him in the office, and maybe a few things about him, but really very little. Except for an occasional glimpse, you don’t see him when he is sick or whiny, you don’t see his worries, fears, weaknesses and shortcomings. You see him doing what he has chosen to do, presumably one of the things he does best. When you don’t really know the other person, the love you may feel is real, but not the kind that makes for a long term relationship or even a friendship outside the bubble of therapy.

The other side is not that different. Therapists come to know a great deal about you, but that, too is in the “bubble.” They know about your difficult characteristics and negative patterns, but they don’t have to live with them. They know about the things you have trouble with, but understand why and how hard you try to change. But, most importantly, they don’t have to deal with the real world consequences. This naturally breeds good feelings. Understanding makes empathy happen and empathy brings out affection. I, and most therapists, genuinely like our patients and, when their hour comes, I am glad to see each one of them.

Is the feeling as intense as yours may be towards your therapist? Probably not. A therapist who has only one patient may be too strongly affected by the ups and downs of that therapy to handle your strong feelings. It is better for you to be one of several. Nonetheless, within your hour you are special and important to your therapist and that specialness probably extends beyond your time as well.

So what about the end of therapy? First, there are different styles, when it comes to ending. In my earlier post, I pointed out that the needs that come from unfinished business in early life are often bigger than adult needs. Therapy is a special place for working out wishes and needs that will never be fulfilled. It is a place for understanding and grieving the things you can’t fix or undo. The therapy love that exists in the sessions is a real help in this work. On the other hand, the consultation room is not the place for the many needs that can be fulfilled in adult life. This is why there comes a point when the therapeutic work is done and a parting may be in order.

There are differing opinions about whether it is good for the end of therapy to be final, or for the door to be left open. I am more likely to leave the door open, and am glad to hear from my old patients. Forcing the termination to be final may have the benefit of making sure that any remaining feelings are dealt with, but in my own experience, the harshness is just as likely to leave a residue. I haven’t found that leaving the door open has prevented important issues from being addressed.

So finally, to get to your question, will your termination hurt your therapist? It is similar for both of you. Saying “Good bye” to the “therapy love” that has been positive for both of you is sad, as well as joyous. Real termination is anything but cold. It will be painful for both of you, but by taking the time to share your feelings about it, the pain will heal and leave you both intact and uninjured. Soon enough, you will both remember the good things more than the sadness. Will your therapist think about you? Probably, just as you will think about your therapist. The attachment is entirely real but it is a “Therapy Attachment.”

Be sure to check the other posts in this category. The next one is here.

30 Comments

  • Thank you so much for posting on this issue. I have been doing a bit of research in this area and so far your blog is one of the most clearly-written, accessible, grounded articles I’ve found. I enjoyed reading the other readers’ comments as well, as it made me feel a sense of “i’m not the only one” too…

    I am currently in therapy and have so many questions on this issue of the therapist-client relationship, what the boundaries are, what I can expect from my therapist, and when I’m asking for too much… One topic that I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about is how the therapist-client attachment/ relationship is affected when the therapist is a parent of small children. This is the case in my current therapy, and there have been two or three times when my therapist’s children’s needs have impacted my sessions…. not sure if this is my own personal issue or something that other clients/therapists have experienced, but I’m wondering the extent to which I should be understanding of my therapist and her circumstances, or the extent to which I have the right to be upset. As you can imagine, this experience is quite triggering.

    If possible, if you have any thoughts to share or literature you recommend around this topic, any information would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you again for your blog/ your writing! I am so happy that I’ve found this blog and I look forward to exploring it more!

  • As I client also, dealing with therapist/client relationship issues and questions – M might find the blog “Tales of a Boundary Ninja” http://boundaryninjatales.com/ a place that might provide some information from a client’s perspective. There is lots there about the struggles of such a relationship and lots of good insight from a client’s perspective. You most certainly are not alone!

  • Hi K,
    I want to say thank you for linking back to my blog but also for leading me here. 🙂

    Jeff,

    You write incredibly clear, jargon free descriptions of therapy and the therapeutic relationship. A lot of my readers would benefit from reading your stuff, so I’m putting up a post linking here. Thanks so much for your efforts.

    AG

  • What should I make of my attachment to my therapist/doctor if I want them to physically comfort me when I talk to distressing things? I have tried a lot of therapists and therapies, but it always, always comes down to “I want you to hold me”, and they won’t, so I act out until they terminate seeing me, or I leave. Any thoughts??

    • I knew a patient who had sustained a great deal of damage in relationships. She felt that she would only be able to regain herself if she had a hug from a therapist. After being rebuffed, she found someone who naturally gave her the hug she needed. It worked, and she regained her sense of self. On the other hand, there are many times when a desire for physical contact only leads to stronger and more insistent wishes. Perhaps that is what your therapists have been concerned about. The best answer I have is, rather than acting out and terminating the relationship, to explore as deeply as possible the feelings and wishes. One possibility is that the feeling that you must be held is in order to keep from experiencing some kind of rage. Perhaps what is most needed is to face the rageful feeling and work with that, rather than acting on it. I hope this helps you to break a difficult and painful repetition. Finally, you might want to look at my post on Second Opinions.

  • i am leaving my therapist because we both feel that i can work on my own and have made great progress My problem is how to deal with the sadness and feelings of loss at leaving her, and how long does this take?. If this was free perhaps the relationship might last longer, but even then it should end. or should it?

    • Dear Reader,

      I’m sorry to hear of your sadness. It could not be more human, and I imagine your therapist feels some as well. This is a form of grieving, and the only way I know to grieve is to go through the feeling. It helps to leave the feelings open as long as they are active. Don’t try too hard to put it behind you, unless you are ready. My latest post about mindfulness has something to say about how feelings heal. I hope it helps. By the way, I’m sure your therapist will be glad to hear how things go for you.

      JS

  • @ Jeffery

    “The best answer I have is, rather than acting out and terminating the relationship, to exlore as deeply as possible the feelings and wishes.”

    Or perhaps a deeply hurt person needs a hug from someone they love and who can be trusted. Occam’s razor.

    Therapists love to modify their modalities ad hoc (they describe it as “eclectic”) and then revert to dogma, such as the “no touch” rule when confronted with and unfamiliar challange, which of course should be anticipated by the therapist as the logical result of “eclectic” modalities.

    I think it often becomes a cherry picking nightmare. Therapists want to experiment with their role in the relationship while requiring the client’s role to remain locked. This is illogical. If the therapist modifies their role, there must of necessity, be a corresponding change in the role of the client.

    I wish therapist spent more time worrying about the damage that may be done from the things they withhold. Look at your reasoning for withholding affection: ” a hug might lead to more intense feelings”. Intense feelings, if they are lurking around, ought to come out and a therapist should be capable of meeting them. On the other hand, you imply the hug might not lead to more intense feelings. So, it might have no effect, or it might have profound positive effects.

    The point is, we really don’t know. Nevertheless, the therapeutic profession has pretty much arbitrarily decided that the least harmful action is to forbid it. Still, any lay person knows that affection to a person in great pain is an act of humanity. We will do it for strangers in some circumstances. However, in therapy, with someone who you trust implicitly, and love profoundly withholding this fundamental form of community is assumed to be harmless. It’s just a breathtaking assumption.

    I wonder if your example of the client who needed a hug, was refused and found affection on her own is typical or a lucky anomaly.

    I’d add this, affection and touch are forms of communication, particularly for people who cannot verbalize their pain (for instance, preverbal experiences like attachment). Therapy is a relationship where communication is key. It seems counterproductive to eliminate such a powerful means of communication between two people.

    G

    • Dear G,
      Thanks for a comment that speaks clearly and firmly about very real and serious dilemmas that too often are sidestepped with oversimplified rules. You are right, the stakes are high and it isn’t simple. JS

  • Dear G,
    Thank-you for showcasing this dilemma. Something about Soul’s opening up together over extended periods creating a “loving” bond. I love my advocate, (who is my social worker) we have worked closely for 10 mos. now. I did not have major infatuation in the beginning. I developed these feelings, over time. I feel we are special to each other, we talk openly about our lives. Our Soul’s talk,….her’s calms mine. She does not know this but I have been keen to notice, the feeling’s are mutual. How do I express this W/O damaging our professional relationship? Any advice please! BZ

    • I hope all readers have noted the cautions in my post: “When you don’t really know the other person, the love you may feel is real, but not the kind that makes for a long term relationship or even a friendship outside the bubble of therapy.” When therapists give a lot of personal information, it is easier for boundaries to become blurred and for “therapy love” to become confused with real world love. It is always a good idea to speak to your therapist about your feelings, all of them. Only then can you both sort out the difference between a therapeutic relationship and a friendship. Friendship is a wonderful thing, and has many benefits but it is not a good tool to do the work of therapy. JS

  • I have been in therapy for over 6 years now. I tried to leave a year ago, but wasn’t ready. We have done some very intense work together, and the relationship is a very close one dealing with years of childhood abuse. At one point my “little girl” became very attached to my therapist and sees him as a father. However, the adult knows that my therapist is not my father, and although it took a long time for me to know it in my mind and heart, now I do. The problem is my therapist now has cancer, and it is
    Progressing, albeit slowly at the moment. I want to be able to visit him if he gets really sick, just to let him know how much I care about him. What parameters exist for this type of situation? I a also afraid that if he dies I won’t get to go tithe funeral. He has related to me many things in his life that he has experienced, similar to mine. His openness and realness have caused me to feel close to him. Six years is a longtime.i don’t know how to say goodbye as therapy has been a safe place for me. I have come to care about him a great deal in a paternal kind of way. I know he cares about me, too. I don’t want to do anything inappropriate, or hurt my therapist in any way. I need him to know I’d like to visit him, and also attend his funeral. Of course I can’t talk with him about any of this as these May be future events, and I don’t want to hurt him. Please help me with this dilemma with your clear and caring insight, so I can continue to grow from therapy today and enjoy his presence without continually projecting into the future and thereby failing to be present in therapy now. Thank you so much for any insight you may have.

    • Dear Kimberly,

      Oh my, I’m sorry to hear. Maybe the most clear rule about boundaries is that if you have thoughts and feelings about your therapist, it is OK to talk about them. Your relationship is based on the value that talking about things, even difficult ones, helps us to heal. I think that goes for him, as well. It is OK to be tactful, even ask him if he feels alright about discussing these questions. But how you deal with the events around his likely death seems to me a very personal matter, one that the two of you, who have navigated so much successfully, will be able to work out, certainly better than an outsider or a rulebook about boundaries. I’m wishing you the best in this, and so, I’m sure are other readers.

      JS

  • Hello,
    I am so grateful to have found this site, and I am in the sad, demanding childish dreaming, wishing for more phase of this process after four years with a therapist whom I adore. Right now I am wanting to let go of him, because the adult knows that she needs to get her needs met outside the bubble, but the child is fighting that idea with all she has. Of course my therapist is working to facilitate the process and avoid imposing his thoughts or ideas. This is the first place I have seen the therapeutic process explained so clearly. In part I wish that my therapist had explained this to me, but he has certainly modeled it. I dread the day I have to say goodbye…so much that I feel like I’m grieving it before it happens. That child is stomping and crying (throwing an internal full fledged temper tantrum) while the adult is ashamed to admit that she can’t let go. I welcome any thoughts about how to facilitate the termination process. It looks like from your blogs that I am being too hard on myself, but I also feel the need to gently begin to let go. I don’t think I will do so well if I just quit.

    • Generally, forcing oneself to let go of relationships on which we have come to depend, leaves the emotional processing unfinished. Termination is really about finishing the emotional process of saying good bye. When letting go is hard, then the best tools to identify issues and work through them are the same ones that have already served quite well, talking together. As always, it is best to bring the issue into the treatment dialog.

      JS

  • Mine is the opposite problem. NO attachment. I’ve had 4 therapists since my husband died a year ago. The first one was a therapist my husband and I had seen only one time a month before he died. His long term illness was very intense for both of us so I wanted us to see a therapist. He was very functional and brave, a world renowned scientist, but even he was exhausted by the end. I saw this therapist directly after my husband died – I was so bereaved I didn’t sleep over an hour or 2 a night for months, I cried all of the time, and honestly couldn’t think of anything but my husband – he still hasn’t been out of my thoughts for one second this past year, and I haven’t had one moment of joy or happiness – hard to believe because I’ve never been sad for over a few weeks even when my parents or grandparents died. I really had no real experience with emotional pain that wouldn’t/won’t abate so this was/is beyond belief for me – a reason to seek help I thought.

    The therapist I first saw seemed to just listen to me cry and watch the clock. I was hysterical all of the time. He seemed to be at a loss as to what to do with me. He rarely commented except on how much my co-pay was. Every session started out with, “rough week?”

    I then went to someone (only once) who wanted me to “tap” different parts of my body. (Emotional Freedom Technique). It was just too New Age. I was a crazy person – grief will make you lose your mind – I’m still looking for mine. I couldn’t see tapping my head as a solution.

    The next one was very sweet and used talk therapy, but she maintained I was clinically depressed (you think!) and sent me to a psychiatrist who wanted to prescribe anti anxiety and in addition antidepressants after he saw me for an hour and typed into his computer. Since I’m not going to take medications that have ANY side effects, that was not an option for me. My husband’s problems stemmed from and he died from overmedication and a deadly medical error (one of many) – a really guesome and unexpected death. I suggested to her that I was seeing her because I thought talk therapy was supposed to help me get through this, not drugs, but she was very insistent. Said I was “impatient” and “stubborn”. Also, she said some things that were little scary – like I was going to get sick from high cortisol levels. Who says this to a person who is so vulnerable and already scared since I was without the person who always had my back? I know she meant well and was concerned for me, but “impatient” and “stubborn” were rather loaded words, and I was scared enough.

    The current one is a Cognitive Behavior Therapist (since July 1st – my husband died March 1st so I’ve had her 9 months). Her website says grief and addiction and insomnia, and the sleep disorder doctor I went to recommended her. I found her approach very fragmented and simplistic. After months of only being treated for insomnia, I told her the approach was not working. I tried for months faithfully filling out my sleep diaries, but I only averaged a few hours a night, and was so totally exhausted I couldn’t think. She became a little defensive. Said I was “stubborn”. I could have told her that or the third therapist could have. I honestly tried to be as diplomatic as I could be. Maybe it was the Excel spreadsheets I created showing her that the sleep deprivation was not working – she really didn’t like that, but she did finally admit that my sleep problems stemmed from my grief not primary insomnia. I don’t know much about therapy having never been there before, but I do know what works for me and what doesn’t work for me, and I’m not going to do things that don’t work for me – I have enough to deal with already.

    Now she tells me she’s not very proficient in such traumatic grief as I have, and I need to find another therapist who specializes in grief. No suggestions – just that she’s not the person for such severe problems with grief. She said after all, it’s been a year since he died. I don’t know the time frame for grief, but it seems when you have a long term loving marriage for 31 years, maybe a year is not so long. I want to ask her if I’m just more trouble than I’m worth, but I’m don’t want to hurt her feelings. I pointed out I spent 9 months with her because she said she treated grief, but she says his death was just too traumatic, and she isn’t equipped for that. It makes me wonder if she is just trying to let me go without hurting my feelings. That’s what my sister says. I would rather she just tell me outright. I don’t want her to feel defensive if I just straight out ask her if she just wants to let me go so I’ll probably quit after this week – I pointed out last time that I might have PTSD from the trauma of his death so she got interested again and said she was open minded. Very confusing.

    Either I’m a terrible patient (certainly not discounting that – I’ve been told I’m “stubborn” and “impatient”) …or …I’ve had awful luck with therapists… or …I don’t need a therapist. I’m about to decide that no one can save me except myself during this most awful and loneliest time in my life. My husband and I were retired, and he was my life (as I was his) and I wish every day that I could trade places with him. I know I can’t do that, and I’m not going to kill myself (that’s a conscious decision I thought long and hard about) so I’m struggling where I’ve never really had to struggle before with this awful sadness and utter emptiness. His unrelenting health problems were nothing compared to losing him. It’s unfathomably hard, and no one can undo this or make it right. No one can bring the person who unconditionally loved me back to me.

    What do you do when you can’t find a therapist that you think even has an inkling of what you are going though or even seems to care? Just wondering why others seem to find good therapists and are attached to them and I don’t. I feel like I’m a serial patient.

  • Dear Gail Ann,
    I am so sorry for your loss. I was moved by your post. You know best what’s best for you, but in terms of needing a therapist or not, I think that most people grieving the loss of a loved one could benefit from the support of an empathic therapist. Don’t get discouraged. There are wonderful, compassionate therapists out there who can understand what you are going through and who do care. It’s not always easy to find a good therapist, but I think it’s worth being persistent and knowing what to look for. Jeffery will be able to offer more qualified input on this, and he also posted a therapy self-evaluation scale at this blog site to help those in therapy or entering therapy assess if the therapy is working well (you can find the scale from the blog’s main page). But from my experience, and I might be biased, in general the most helpful therapists, for most issues, are those who use a psychodynamic and integrative approach, taking a holistic look at healing, including early childhood development. Even in working with bereavement, it’s possible for issues rooted in childhood to eventually come up in therapy – for example you mentioned that your husband was unconditionally loving, but perhaps you discover that there were ways in which your parents were not offering unconditional love when you were very young; maybe at some point in therapy, grief associated with things from your childhood might come up as well, and it could be worth processing those feelings as well. This is just an example though; I don’t fully know your situation.

    So I would look for a psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapist, with many years of experience. Also one whose empathy you can sense from the very beginning. If the first few sessions don’t feel right and the therapist doesn’t get you or says things that rub you the wrong way, it may be better to move on and keep searching than sticking with an unproductive therapy. You are not a serial client. Many people change therapists, taking their time to find a therapist they feel can help them change and heal. About 10 years ago, I worked with a therapist whose empathy I could sense even when she wasn’t talking; her kindness/compassion was palpable in the therapy room, and her presence so healing. I was able to change a lot in that therapy, and the change has been lasting. More recently, I have decided there were a few more things I’d like to work on in therapy, and have met 3-4 therapists so far, none of which I resonated with. I live in a somewhat small town though, where choice of therapists (and therapy approaches) is limited, and because I know what a big difference working with a skilled, empathic therapist can make, I am actually considering moving to a big city, like Toronto, where there are plenty of good therapists to choose from. If I were able to live in the New York City area, I would ask Dr Smith himself to possibly be my therapist.

    I wish you all the best. Take the time you need to grieve the loss of your husband. There is no timeframe on grief and no set schedule in which you should be “over” it.
    JM

  • Thank you Linda for the condolences and suggestions. They are certainly good ones.

    I don’t know much about therapy for myself although my husband and I spent 5 years in family therapy helping our daughter handle a chronic illness – when a child is young, a chronic illness is a family problem. The family therapist was very effective for our whole family and I credit her with the health my daughter has today. So I do know there are some good therapists out there. The one who we went to has moved to another state so she’s not available to ask.

    Actually, my husband was the closest man I could find who was like my dad. My dad loved me so much that many of my friends used to say I would never get married because I would never find anyone like him. My mom was my best friend. Both are gone now, but I didn’t grieve them very long because I had my husband who was so solid and always there to fall back on.

    I live in a big city so there are a zillion therapists. I’m splitting my time between my sister in another state and the city I live in. My house is just too empty and lonely, and my older sister and I are very close so she’s been an incredible source of support. I may look in the town my sister lives in. I certainly don’t think I could do any worse than the ones I have seen so far. Perhaps grief is just something that therapists have a hard time with since we humans are hard wired to have this emotional pain when we lose a long term and much beloved spouse or a child.

  • Hi Gail Ann,

    So wonderful that you had/have a loving family. Thanks for sharing further in response to my post. Having a sister as a solid source of support makes a big difference. When I said that most people can be helped by therapy during a time of grief, I think I was speaking mostly from my perspective, as I don’t have family where I live (Canada).

    I am not sure if all therapists have a hard time dealing with grief situations, but it’s true that we are hard-wired to have deep emotional pain when losing someone close… Also, as helpful as a therapist can be, grief is something we do mostly privately – with the loss of a long-term spouse being one of the most painful experiences one can have – and the best thing to do is probably letting yourself feel all the feelings, for as long as it takes.

    Best wishes finding the right therapist, if you still feel that you need to find one.
    JM

  • Jeffrey, you talked in the article about the fact that we actually do not really know our therapist. We don’t have that insight into their personal lives to see when they are sick or grumpy (well I’ve seen that one, lol) or that they are human also. Because they do not share about themselves as a rule it makes it easier to put them up on this pedestal. Wouldn’t it work better for clients of they were to see the “real” therapist after a length of time. I mean I just wonder if I saw who she really was outside her practice would I still have such an attachment to her. Is the attachment because she shows compassion and completely makes it about me for a change. Growing up it wasn’t about me. I’m trying so hard to release these feelings and will them away, but I can’t seem to do that. What will cause me to gradually let go? I’m so confused and don’t know who to fix me. Your insight would be appreciated

  • Wow, wonderful posts here! Very helpful, many thanks!!!!

    I have met various therapists for short or intermediate therapies (not very high on your self-evaluation scale) in the last 5 years, and now started another one (much higher on your scale), which is not meant to be a short one, given the modality. The new guy is skilled, wonderfully understanding and kind, but there is something else here, not just from me. Something that requires strong boundaries.

    I now wonder, when it so soon turns out that you have many affinities and some incredible alchemy is there, why would we not enter the classical relationship, and then I would seek therapy elsewhere, in another relationship where the attraction is not that strong. Is this delusion? How would it be damaging?

    In my particular case, this is the beginning of therapy and I have already told him my feelings (because it made me very deeply sad to have met him in this fenced context). He only smiles and nods, approving of /rejoicing in the attachment, and he consistently avoids discussing the subject. I try to bring it back but he just avoids, which makes me shy, of course. The child in me just wants to play with his boundaries but is ashamed to see how he enjoys and avoids.

    This is tricky. I fully appreciate the boundary that leads me to grieve some very important things denied in my childhood, and the lightness that comes along the letting go, but I also feel it would be a shame to not develop another kind of relationship.

    • “Something that requires strong boundaries.” The blog, “Tales of a boundary Ninja” is full of excellent material about erotic transferences. Attachment Girl, the author of the blog, also wrote a guest chapter in my e-book Attachment to Your Therapist. In short, the rules are simple and, for better or worse, rather absolute. 1. One can’t have both. The relationship is either a therapeutic one with boundaries respected on both sides, or it is not. 2. Once boundaries are crossed, the crossing must be repaired or the therapy is done. 3. In the great majority of cases, erotic feelings that arise in a therapeutic relationship fail to take into account that neither party has a complete knowledge of the other and in all likelihood, much of the substance of the feelings comes from transference perceptions filling in where real data is missing. In other words, it is not possible to know a therapist even to the degree that one can, over a few months, come to know a lot about a prospective mate. So there are great perils of fantasy being substituted for reality in sizing up a therapist and in imagining that it might be possible to transform a therapy relationship into some other kind of relationship.

      On the other hand, we have seen in these pages, many kinds of feelings in relation to therapists, love, hate, attachment, yearning for something from the person, etc. Erotic feelings are one more type of feeling directed towards a therapist. When this is the way early issues come up in therapy, then these feelings, like any other, have to be explored and processed. That can’t be done without “strong boundaries.” Only in the safety of confidence that the therapist will not cross boundaries, is it possible to explore this kind of feeling. Therefore, it takes a rather special therapist to hold firm under the tug of erotic feelings. One sign of such a therapist is that he or she is able to and comfortable talking openly and matter of factly about erotic transference feelings. If a therapist is clearly aware of such things and not talking about them, that may be an indication of discomfort with the issue. It would be helpful in such a case, to bring up the feelings and talk about them so as to be clear that this needs to be handled therapeutically and not acted upon by either party.

      Hope that gives some clarity. Yours, Jeffery

      • Great answer, Jeffery, thank you so much!!!
        You are possibly right about the mere fantasy, and actually I found out that I can control it more or less, but the emotional dependence, I can’t, and it is obsessive. I am glad to experience so powerful transference, it’s a luck it seems, despite the confusion and pain. So from my side I’ll stick to the boudaries because of my great luck …of going through the pain 🙁
        Too bad he is not at ease with discussing any of these things. I’ll persist since that seems to be crucial.
        The Boundary Ninja blog is great, thank you for pointing to it. All spot on.

  • My therapist developed a crush on me. He initiated hugs and after I told him I felt uncomfortable with them, everything changed. He worried more about his practice than my retraumatizatiion he caused. He completely set me up and shut me down. It was harmful amd still is months later. Psychotherapy is evil at best and one needs to find a real friend to find real healing. Sorry doc but I can’t see the value. Never ever again! $200 an hour and he had more fun than me. Uh uh never again it’s a sham.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that. Therapists crossing boundaries is a problem that continues to come up. Glen Gabbard has written a lot about this subject. So far, there hasn’t been a way to screen out therapists who have work to do on themselves before being able to help patients with this kind of issue. You can report him to his professional society, which may be more therapeutic than purely punitive, or to his licensing board. I am sorry to hear you thinking that all therapy is unethical. In this blog, there are many accounts of ethical therapists doing a lot of good.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about a betrayal by a therapist. Therapists who have not worked through their own inner child’s needs are a recurring problem that has not been solved. Glen Gabbard has written extensively about this. Options are to report to the therapist’s professional society, which is less punitive, or to the licensing board, which is more punitive. Taking the risk to trust again after repeated betrayals is hard, but may still be the best thing to do. I’m sorry that you seem ready to assume the all therapists are exploiters. The pages of this blog are full of accounts of therapists who are ethical and very helpful. JS

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