How to Deal with Transference -
What others are saying
I don't trust my therapist.
Sometimes I think I am just addicted to therapy and can not get out of it. I have been through some wretched experiences lately. I wish I could get help but I really do not know where to go for help.
I do not trust my current therapist. She has done a couple of things that I was shocked by. I am trying to sort out whether these things were called for on her part or not. I feel she uses my words against me. Uses the information I give her to set up traps.
Is it me being uncooperative or is it her being a bad therapist or something in between? I guess I'd have to devulge more here to really get any answers. But I am new here. I am glad I found this site though. Helps me know I am not alone however I get the feeling that therapy and transference is a bit like drug addiction. I live in Minneapolis (I know how boring)
Transference involves rejection.
I feel devastated to realize i'm experiencing transference especially since most of my emotional pain relates to rejection from my earliest childhood memories, fear of rejection as an adult, and an emotional abandonment issue at 18 years old from parents.
At its very nature, transference involves rejection. I had heard of transference and i could have given an intelligent definition of it but to experience it is horrible. in fact, not until i read your website and others comments did i actually realize this was transference. it couldnt be because what i feel is so deep, real, tender that these feelings would have to be legitimate. i would never have thought it could be untill i began to read other peoples experiences and how much they hurt and felt so deeply.
i am having a lot of anxiety just typing this. my hands are shaking b/c i feel afraid that my therapist will somehow read this and see my email address. intellectually i know thats ridiculous odds. i feel so trapped also, which is what has brought me to the point of seeking counseling again after many years. my depression and anxiety are really bad. i feel many times the only way "out" from being trapped is suicide.
people who have never had emotional problems and depression for many many years have no idea. they only think the person is selfish. they dont see it becomes an actual solution to the person who desperately needs relief from emtional pain. so now i do have a great therapist who has just began "to come along side of me into this sacred place of my mind and heart to help me through the pain" --these have been his words--to where a few times i've felt hope again. and now i find out this horrible thing has occurred that has such a benign name--transference and i feel trapped because even if i'm willing to start over with someone else, it probably will just happen again because it relates to real issues i need to work through.
i've already had times when i've felt literally transported back in time to a little girl in a flash and i'm in mid life years. i've had to stop talking before because of being so overwhelmed and devastated to have feelings come over me. i've felt intense shame in the presence of my counselor and now i have to tell him i'm having transference! i'm beside myself.
Also since everyone else has had the courage to share what kind of relational transference they are experiencing i will tell you that almost immediately i felt a father like connection with him probably b/c of his wisdom, age, self confidence, self assurance, energy and passion. He reminded me of my dad. except my dad does not have the emotional maturity he does. honestly i dont think most men do. and i am no feminist either. men have alot of great strengths women dont have. i am making generalization statements. anyway, back to my point.
Now im about 2 months in and i have romantic feelings for him. whats really confusing is that i believe he really does have qualities that i would want in a relationship with a man and surely thats not wrong to realize that and also to admit that i want to have a wonderful man to share my lilfe with which i dont like to even admit b/c i feel so rejected b/c i've never been a girl that guys choose.
even now i had to stop b/c i cant see that computer screen b/c of crying to even admit i want this kind of relationship. i've even mentioned before that my relationship with my dog is the most significant one i have. And i'm definitely not telling you my dog's name or someone will figure out who i am. ha. i have no real intimate relationships and long for that and yet pull back in fear also. sorry this is so long.
thanks p.s. i have never done anything like this on line so i am so scared.
Kim, Illinois, USA
How do I tell if my therapist is genuine?
How do you know as a client whether the interaction you have with your therapist is genuine or just the reaction of a very well trained practitioner?
Caroline, South Carolina, USA
My feelings are getting to be too much.
I have been in therapy for approx. 6 months now, and am having huge issues with transference. So much so that I am starting to pull away from my therapist.
I was making great progress, until my feelings for her just got too be too much. I was thinking of her all the time, wanting to be with her, having sexual feeling. I do realize that this is all part of transference, but I am very vulnerable right now, and am having a hard time separating my feeling and the realization of transference.
I should bring this up to her and explain how I am feeling, but I do not want to scare her away. We do work well together, and she has been there for me through some really rough times. Any advice would be appreciated.
Kats, Ontario, Canada
Yes, it is scary Kats. If it's any comfort...the feelings are real though. You've felt them before. That's why it's happening. You've experienced a loss before and at a time when it was critically important (probably during your infant years). No doubt these same feelings of loss are being triggered. This explains why the current ones are so intense and the risk is so high.
What we know about the way the brain changes is that when the risk is high, the potential for growth is similarly high. So, I encourage you to take that step and share your feelings with your T. Until this happens, it's very likely that your therapy will be hampered.
As you've probably read in these posts, it's also true not all T's understand the transference dynamic. However, if your T is capable of a deep connection, I suspect that she will be there for you.
This is my hope for you Kats...that this time you will have a new experience. Your therapist is not leaving you. She will help you re-wire those old fear pathways. She will be there with you and help you manage through those fears replacing them with a warm heart-felt connection.
All the best,
My therapist also has countertransference with me.
I (female) recently admittede to my (male) therapist that I was experiencing transference, he was very sensitive to the issue and told me everything was going to be okay. Since we have talked about it, he has admitted to experiencing countertransference with me. I don't know that this is a good thing, but it sure feels that way. I feel more comfortable and willing to be more honest because he is with me.
Has anyone experienced this? He says it's the first time he has, but he has encountered transference in the past. What was the outcome to your experience?
Lynn, Kansas City, USA
I long to hear my therapist say the words.
Thank you Shrinklady!
Your words are very kind and soothing. This has been a long hard journey at times, but the change/metamorphosis has been so healing. I receive so many comments from people about something being different about me. (For the better.) It has been a lot of hard work and it is so worth it. I have worked through multiple traumas and my T says that my attachment is my BIG trauma. But I am gaining exposure and she has been wonderful about it.
I like how you related that you say the words your clients need to hear. My T has dropped some hints, but it seems as though she wants me to pick it up by experiencing and not just hearing, but I long to hear it. I really do. Maybe I should tell her that. Its Funny how you suggested that I imagine her saying the words I need to hear, I do that all the time. But I think I can do that effectively because I also do get a sense that there is a love or affection there on her part.
I want to tell you that I really appreciate how you take the time to reflect on and to respond to so many posts despite your busy schedule as a Therapist. Hearing a Therapistís side of the relationship is touching. I hope you can continue to be available.
Much heartfelt thanks! Just Me
What a lovely message Just Me. Thank-you. It's always nice to hear how therapy is making a difference. And, that's a true test, eh? If therapy is working...others notice the difference. I got the same messages when I was changing. Folks noticed my face had changed...more relaxed I think.
It's been great getting to know you Just Me, here and in the Counseling Psych Cafe. I want to say how much I appreciate you helping out so many folks in the Counseling Psych Cafe. You've been wonderful.
I'm quite enjoying responding to the messages folks leave. It's been interesting getting to know who my visitors are. I see my traffic is increasing and this Post-a-Comment gives me a small window into who's dropping by.
Bye for now,
I think about her sexually...
I have been in therapy for 4 months now and i am having transference issues. i am a female with a female therapist. i think about her sexually as well as being a friend after termination, neither of which will happen i am sure. i can never wait until the next session and is all i ever think about. i am really worried about termination and i feel i won't be able to deal with it without going crazy.
we have not discussed transference issues yet. i refuse to bring it up. i am hoping she will ask me, and even then i might not say anything about it. i am also a gay female and i dont want to scare her in any way.
Also, is counter-transference as common as transference?? I feel so dependent i cant stand it.. Thank you..
Dale, New Jersey, USA
My therapist acted on her feelings.
I once had a really good therapist / alternative practitioner - After seeing her twice a week for six months, she terminated the sessions saying that she could no longer be my therapist/healer because of the way she felt about me. - I of course had real feelings of attatchment and love, but knew about transference and therefore had ignored those feelings.
She on the otherhand chose to act on hers and invited me to have a sexual relationship with her...... 10 years on we are no longer together - the relationship was short-lived on her part - but I am left unable to achieve resolution and have been left with acutely painful feelings of rejection, sadness, low self-esteem, and anger at what now feels like un-requited love.†
What am I to do?
Tania, London, UK
Would it hurt if my therapist said those things?
I have been in therapy for just over two years and I began to notice transference feelings for my therapist after the first 4 months. It started as sexual attraction which threw me for a loop because I am a happily married hetero-sexual female and my therapist is also female.
I became distraught in thinking that something is terribly wrong with me, that if I confessed my horrible feelings for her that she would find me disgusting and terminate my therapy (abondon me). I spent many painstaking hours researching this phenomenon until I finally found the courage to confront my therapist. (The book "In Session" by Deborah Lott was invaluable for me)
I was relieved to find out this was normal and that she did not find me disgusting and absolutely would never abandon me. She has remained a stable force in my life and two years later after working through multiple traumas I am ever more attached to her maternally. I still have a physical attraction, but most of my feelings are clearly my little girl-self desiring her to mother and nurture me.
I confessed to her recently that sometimes I wish that she was my mother (although impossible because she is only 10-12 years older than me.) While I am still greatly uncomfortable with my childish longings and feelings for her I know that expressing myself is always healing. But I still find it frightening. I still feel that there is something wrong with me and that she will finally get so frustrated with me and give up saying "Oh THAT again." And I know better!
Sometimes I find myself crying because I miss her so much between sessions and because she cannot be my mother. Then I feel so foolish for having these thoughts even though I intellectually get why I do. I even feel obsessed with wanting to know more about her even though she is not rigid about sharing some info about herself. She keeps good boundaries and yet is very authentic and genuine. I feel lucky to have her as my therapist but I am still struggling with my overwhelming attachment to her and still afraid to fully expose myself.
Reading your site and Robin Shapiros website gives me a feeling that I am not alone and that letting it all out is exactly what I need to do. It feels so BIG inside of me, but I am still afraid to let it all out and I am not always certain what all of it really is. Sometimes I wish she would just say "I know you're feeling something so just spill it." But she is ever patient waiting for me to work up the nerve to do so on my own.
She has told me that she desires for me to be able to finally express my needs and yet I resist. Partly because I know she can't really meet my needs. She cannot magically become my mother, she cannot hold me and let me cry like a child in her arms, she cannot love me the way I want her to love me. I want her to tell me that i am important and lovable to her, and that she thinks I am intelligent, but she seems more inclined for me to adopt those beliefs on my own.
Would it hurt for her to say those things to me?
In regards to my wanting to know more about her I find myself seeking info on the Internet about her desiring to find the slightest tid-bit then feeling guilty if I learn something she may not want for me to know. This is all so hard to express let alone deal with. I hope that I make some sense. I can't really tell myself. Thank you
Just Me, Michigan, USA
I'm drawn to the whole transference thing.
I'm sure I'm experiencing transference and cannot stand it. I walk into the office all ready to talk about my feelings and as soon as I sit down I shut down and feel like I'm 10 years old.
I hate her and love her at the same time and can't stand that I wasn't warned that this crap can happen. I blame her for not warning me about transference and really wish I had never met her at times. I started out in marriage counseling which went well and it's 3 years later and I can't leave. I've tried--said goodbye--decided I was done, but something draws me back to her.
By the way I am a woman and I do not have sexual desires for my therapist when I say I love her, it's a love for this person that always listens and is always there for me. Reality is she's not tough. She can't answer the phone whenever I call and when I need to talk I can't. I hate that I have to wait for and appointment. It would also be sooooo much easier to discuss all of this with her on the phone and she won't do that. I want to quit , but can't. I'm stuck. I hope you can help.
Diane, Livingston, USA
Diane re-posted and added these comments. I thought I'd include them as she's posed some good questions.
After re-reading what I wrote, I thought I'd add a few more lines. Why does everything I say about her or my feelings have to relate to something else? I feel like my feelings are not real because we are always looking for a reason for them and they are suppossedly not really towards her but something else.
Why can't I just like and not like my therapist? Also, how am I suppossed to trust her when she doesn't open up to me? I know I would be more comfortable talking if she allowed me to trust her with something. I hate the one-sidedness of the whole thing. I have googled her and found out information, but that's not good enough. I actually became very angry by what I found.
Sometimes I really don't even know why I'm seeing her, but like I said, I'm drawn toward the whole thing. I go into the office or call her expecting one thing and leave or hang up disappointed. I have also talked to her about crying in the office. I have said that I won't cry because I'd feel foolish sitting there while she stares at me crying.
The other thing is now that I told her that how can I cry if I feel it coming on? I'll really feel like a fool after telling her I'm not going to. I'd feel like I was giving in. As you can see there's alot going on and I'm really am stuck. I've thought about trying a new therapist, but really don't want to start all over again. Help
I struggle with feeling dependent on my therapist.
I'm another one struggling with an intense transference relationship, but am grateful that my therapist and I have been really open about it. While keeping very safe boundaries in place, he has been open to hearing about all my feelings and working it through. All that said, it can be incredibly painful and frustrating.
I know one thing that I have struggled with the most is feeling like I am so dependent on my therapist. There is a book that has really helped me understand what is going on in the relationship and the way in which it is healing that I would like to recommend for anyone dealing with this. the book is The General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis.
It discusses our need for attachment and limbic resonance in order to regulate our nervous systems. Its a great companion to a lot of the information available on this web site. And its really well written, I found it very accessible for a layman.
Attachment Girl, Syracuse, NY
Thanks Attachment Girl for sharing this and your book suggestion. I took a boo at the book and as I was skimmin through, thought it looked pretty good. In fact, I will put it forward as a selection for my study group.
I stumbled upon a quote from the book..."When an emotional chord is struck, it stirs to life memories of the same feeling." (pg. 130) It seemed like a good match for transference.
The quote made me think about boundaries and I'm so glad you referred to them. In my view, good boundaries are essential for the full working through of transference reactions.
Not every one might appreciate the idea around boundaries in the context of understanding transference, so let me briefly add this. When a therapist recognizes that the client's anger is coming from another place he or she does not take it personally...and is able to see it for what it is...while maintaining a solid connection. This is how boundaries are maintained and the healing occurs.
In other words, the brain is having a new experience.
You had mentioned struggling with feelings related to the dependency on your therapist. I can understand that, in a word, you've done this before (in infancy) and it didn't quite work out...so it makes it all the more scary today.
As you have probably read, if we don't have a chance as an infant to feel secure and safe with our caregiver then in therapy we will revisit our yearning to feel dependent upon our therapist.
In other words, "leaning on" our therapist is how we heal.
As you proceed in therapy, hopefully you will discover that it is through this process you become more fully who you are. And, just like an infant, when you get enough of your needs met, you will flourish!
All the best on your journey,
P.S. the "leaning on" phrase came from a book recommended to me by Dr. Carole, called Lean on Me by Marion Solomon. (the same Solomon who co-wrote Parenting from the Inside Out.)
I received a reply from Attachment Girl and here's what she said:
Shrinklady, Thanks so much, that all made a lot of sense. And thank you so much for the book recommendation. I read Parenting from the Inside Out which my therapist recommended when I asked for a book on attachment and it had an incredible impact on me. I will definitely be reading this one.
I hope your study group enjoys A General Theory of Love. My therapist actually read it after I had told him about it and we've discussed it extensively as it has really resonated with the work we're doing. Although, he did say he was very bummed out while reading it because there was another book he didn't get to write. : )
Thank you so much for being such a help on my journey.
I feel humiliated by transference feelings.
I am experiencing transference for the first time and am finding it incredibly painful and difficult. The thought of talking about it with my therapist brings up huge feelings of humiliation and seems impossible.
I never had a "real" mom, just a neglectful abusive one, and long for the nurturance and care she represents to me. I know it can't happen that way, but it causes so many huge feelings to come up in me. It's helpful to have these feelings labeled.
suz. boston, usa
I became dependent on my therapist so quickly.
I find transference frightening! I don't know how I can become so dependent on a therapist, so quickly! I count the days, even hours until I can see him and talk about my issues...it scares me!
Debra, Traverse City, USA