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My contact via email was suddenly withdrawn.

Reading these comments has been so helpful in helping me realize what has been transpiring between my therapist and me the last 7 months. I went initially to see her to be hypnotized to stop smoking - however, I continued going to see her for therapy and began interactive hypnotherapy. Covering issues and fears of abandonment. (I was adopted) and a heterosexual female.

She's 12 years older than me. Several times a week for the past 6 months I would email her and she would respond with such kind, caring, positive ideas. I would come home from work and sit at the computer waiting for her to respond - and she always did usually within 12 hours. Sometimes she would respond from her Blackberry. I was beginning to feel sexual feelings for her which completed freaked me out! I was aware, and expressed this to her several times that she had qualities that I wish my Mother had. That she always makes me feel so secure and safe.

Just this last Tuesday, we had an ice storm and I became worried about her. I emailed her to let me know that she was okay, and the response I got was devastating. She asked me not to email her any longer between sessions. Keep my questions for our therapy appointments just like she does with all her other clients. That she loves her clients and working with them - including me, but that she only has so much energy and time, and would kill herself if she tries to meet everybody's needs and not her own. The tone of the email was 180 degrees from what she has written before.

We have an appointment in two days - as it's driving me crazy what I did that made her not want to interact with me anymore between sessions. We both are educated and were very complimentary towards either other. I understand now it is transference. This is very different for me as I just recently let the 'guard' down and allowed myself to feel feelings and emotions. I'm not sure how to handle this situation as I feel such a loss now.

Thank you for website!

Kel (Texas, USA)

That's really unfortunate Kel. I can understand why you might be shocked. Your therapist should have been clear about this from the get-go. I want to absolutely clear on this - you were not at fault. She not only failed to address the issue in a timely manner, but then did it in a way that was clearly not in your best interests.

Ideally, your therapist should have raised the issue early on in your work together. She would have clearly outlined when she was available, what she was willing to do, and what she was not. She would have ensured that you understood these parameters in order to reduce the chances of placing you in an uncomfortable situation of running off course. Nor was this an issue that should have been dealt with through email.

I can see that these emails have been extremely useful for you, helping you to manage between sessions. Email therapy between sessions is a relatively new wrinkle on regular therapy and I think therapists have not yet given it enough consideration. It was certainly never covered in my academic training. (I am long past my academic trainings so it may be addressed today.)

In her favour, and given her history of being warm and available, I suspect that she was caught off guard by her own feelings. Therapists are not immune to human failings and it might be that she hadn't realized how strong her feelings had gotten before she needed to change the arrangements for between-session contact.

Many therapists have been in similar situations. The good ones learn from these events and come out of them better prepared to repair breaks in the therapeutic relationship (i.e. misattunements).

I sincerely hope that you had the courage to bring it up with your therapist (as this response is long past your submit date) and that she was there for you in a way that helped you to recover.

As I have mentioned several times on the site, it's these kinds of reparative moments that can provide opportunities for deep healing.

I wish the best for you Kel,

Shrinklady


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)

Woodensoul

Hey Woodensoul, thanks for your post. I'm sorry to hear about the negavtive experiences with your therapist. As you can imagine, our own stuff frequently gets in the way of our accurate take on things. I get that that's what you're currently trying to sort out.

One way to assess is to reflect on whether you experience this feeling in your interactions with others. If it's a common experience for you, then I'd encourage you to look deeper within yourself. For instance, ask yourself if it's a pattern that comes up in your friends and family history. And, is there a way that you enter interactions that may be contributing to the way you end up feeling.

Nonetheless despite the above, I tend to be trusting of our gut feelings and these are pretty strong feelings you're talking about. From what you wrote, I wondered if your therapist is into "being right" at your cost. I'm not sure what's going on but from an attachment perspective, any interpretation that doesn't fit for a client--no matter how "right" or "wrong"--is just that, wrong. Good therapy is a process not a intellectual discourse.

That was an interesting comment about therapy and transference being an addiction. Well, actually romantic love is like an addiction too. It sets off a cascade of hormones that light up the brain. That's why we typically like falling in love. Problem is, sometimes the brain is set to go off for people that might not be so right for us. This propensity gets laid down early but thankfully, through a process of transference, we can get unhooked.

I hope you are able to bring the issue into your work in a way that feels safe for you. That's key....safety. And, from the sounds of it, you're currently not feeling that safe. I imagine there's a good chance therapy will get stalled until this gets addressed to your satisfaction.

All the best,

Shrinklady
P.S. Hey! I lived in Minneapolis for a few short months a couple decades ago. I enjoyed my time there. Being from a small town little things get me going...I liked that grocery store chain that keeps its doors open in the middle of winter.


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

Thank-you Kim for your courageous spirit in sharely so deeply. I'm always glad when I hear that someone found the other posts helpful. Your post will help others who feel as you do and for whom hope has dimmed.

It may not feel it at the moment, however you are on a healing journey. Your heart is learning to open and with that, there is a greater possibility for a richer, more expanded life and the support of good friends and long-term relationships.

All the best on your path,

Shrinklady


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

Gee, Caroline, I wish I had a sound bite for that one. It's a bit of a Catch-22. You know that someone is being real because you feel it in your gut. However, if you have a lot of trauma in your body, the signals can be hard to figure out...which is why one goes to therapy.

In case you weren't already aware, trauma distorts our perceptions, it makes us wary of things we normally wouldn't be suspicious of. If you are fearful, mistrusting or "paranoid" about stuff in your life outside of therapy, chances are it's going to show up with your interactions with your T.

Therapists aren't trained to mouth platitudes of care. If your therapist is expressing some emotion to you, that she or he cares, and you feel it in your gut, it'd be my guess that it's real.

All the best Caroline on your therapeutic journey,

Shrinklady


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,

Shrinklady


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

Hi Lynn, I'm sorry it's taken me a while to get back to you on this. I wanted to chat with a couple colleagues to hear what they had to say.

First off, generally speaking, it's important to understand that transference is happening to some degree in all our relationships. We all have a history and we perceive others around us from this frame of reference. In other words, we are all human - including therapists.

You can't have transference from a client and no countertransference from a therapist. Where you have one, you have the other.

However, if you're asking me how common it is for a client to have a positive "loving" transference towards a therapist at the same time as the T has a similar "loving" transference, then I don't have an answer for you.

Absolutely, it does happen. How often it occurs, I don't know. However, it's probably the main reason why some therapists who cannot manage the intensity of the feelings that get triggered, end up violating the sanctity of the client's boundaries. (And why it's critically important for therapists to do their own personal therapy.)

I'm pleased that your therapist disclosed his countertransference. I can see that it's been helpful to you already. In time, I imagine this will prove to be a great learning experience for the both of you.

I wish you best on your journey,

Shrinklady


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 Therapist’s 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,

Shrinklady


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

Hello Dale, I can feel how hard this is for you. The bare truth is that unless this gets talked about in your therapy, I think it's gonna be pretty hard for you to move beyond it. That would be a shame. Transference offers such a tremendous opportunity for deep healing.

As you may have read elsewhere, it's in the working through that you start to heal early wounding. You will learn to tolerate and move through a longing that can never be met yet still feel a warm, nourishing connection with your therapist. You will learn that the connection sustains itself. It's kinda like, "No, we're not going to have sex, but I care about you and I'm not going anywhere."

I can understand how terrifying this is for you. There are no guarantees that your therapist knows how to manage transference. However, it seems you have a history with her. You probably have a sense of how attuned she is to your emotional states. Maybe she has raised issues that reflect how the two of you work together (i.e. her countertransference influences where she pauses and what she lets go). These kinds of communications can give you a gut feel for how she might respond.

Keep in mind transference (and countertransference) shows up everywhere. It's in your other relationships to some degree--and like many people--often in ways that are outside consciousness. (So, yes countertransference is as common as transference. It can't be otherwise because we are all inter-connected. You see,
countertransference isn't just about feelings of love, it covers any perceptions that the therapist has about the client.)

In your post, it sounds as if you're afraid that being "gay" will scare her away when you tell her how you feel. I can't imagine that this would pose any more of a challenge to a good therapist than a client who is bisexual or heterosexual. The important task of your therapist is to stay connected with you and to allow your feelings to be expressed and respected.

If you haven't already found the transference threads on the Counseling Psych Café, you might take a look. There are quite a few folks who've been where you are today and I'm sure you'll find the information quite helpful.

All the best,

Shrinklady


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

Tania, I'm so sorry that this happened to you. It's such a flagrant violation of therapeutic boundaries.

I know these things happen but when I first read your post, it shook me up. As such, it's taken me some time to pull my reflections together.

As you know, we depend on our therapist to create and maintain strong boundaries to keep us safe, particularly as we are often not able to do so for ourselves...that's why we go to therapy. That this caregiver transgressed the bounds of her profession, makes the violation that much more damaging. You placed your trust in this woman and she did not do what was necessary to keep you safe. Her behaviour was professionally unethical and personally selfish.

I can't imagine that your healing can begin unless you return to therapy. I'm reminded of a phrase a friend of mine always quotes, "wounded in relationship, healed in relationship". A corrective emotional experience goes a long way in healing relational trauma.

It may feel that you're putting yourself back in the frying pan. The idea might even feel quite frightening so it's so important to remember that you were in tune with your feelings (i.e. the transference) when you were seeing this practitioner. This self-awareness will serve you well should you choose to work with someone new.

I wish you well Tania and I hope you find the freedom you surely deserve,

Shrinklady


Being emotionally vulnerable terrifies me.

Hmm... someone mentioned the word transference to me and I googled it. It freaked me out a bit. I am a strongly independent and stubborn person, and the thought that I could become so emotionally vulnerable to someone else TERRIFIES me. Yet I have done just that. Only it isn't with my therapist, it is with my occupational therapist that I see for something else (though my mental health is very intertwined in what brought me to see her in the first place).

I think in just knowing about transference, I can take a step back (hopefully) and realize that this is transference. While I don't have sexual feelings for her, I think about her often and look forward to therapy every week. If something gets in the way of that I get very upset about it. Also, I enjoy the therapy very much, and find it very calming and pleasant, so I think I associate that with her as well.

She is leaving for maternity leave any time now, and we will be planning towards discharge upon her return. I became very upset about this (I knew about it months ago), and even suicidal. I know that she is NOT my therapist, and that once my OT goals have been reached it is time for me to part my ways with her.

But I feel like I am losing a VERY important support in my life, especially because I have moved, and am seeing a new therapist. I have not developed a lot of trust with my new therapist yet, and I don't feel totally open to talk to her about what exactly is going with my occupational therapist. Hearing about this has actually given me a lot of hope, in that this is relatively normal. I do know that her leave and transitioning out of therapy will be very hard, but now I think I understand why it terrified me so much.

Erin

Yes, that's right Erin, transference can happen with anyone as you have discovered. The feelings that surface through transference are useful for helping us to see more of ourselves. You see, it's really not about the person per se but what comes up for us in relationship with the person. It wakes us up to what we're yearning for even if we're not conscious of it.

In your case, it appears that she is helping you to feel what's it's like to be in someone's presence and feeling safe and calm. What a gift!

You will always have the memory of your OT and I would encourage you to use that in times when you need to. For instance, you can call upon the kindness you felt from her when feeling stressed.

I would also encourage you to talk to your therapist about your feelings for your OT. She will be able to help you navigate the upcoming transitions.

Keep in mind that one of the things that may be preventing you from forming a closer relationship with your current therapist is the closeness you feel with your OT.

All the best on your journey,

Shrinklady


Can my CBT therapist help me resolve transference?

My therapist of 3 1/2 years recently told me I was getting close to being ready to terminate therapy. I originally went to him as part of a compulsive gambling treatment program (I was also abusing prescription drugs at the time) I have truly turned my life around to a miraculous degree--I have not practiced my addictions since about 6 weeks into treatment.

However, my gut reaction to my therapist's pronouncement was to feel extreme fear of abandonment. He has been very like my own father to me throughout my process of reclaiming my life. (My dad died in 1991)

Anyway, my question is this: Must the therapist be psychodynamically oriented for me to resolve my transference? My therapist is very CBT focused and does not express very much emotion. I read something you wrote about a therapist needing to be emotionally responsive enough in the therapeutic relationship for the transference to resolve. Am I out of luck if this man chooses to remain somewhat emotionally unavailable.

Thanks for your help, Carol. Omaha, USA

Yes, Carol, that's right. In order to heal we need some of the same conditions that were present when we first developed our emotional template. We need our therapist to be emotinally available to us. In this way we feel some of the same type of feelings that we had as infants. This helps us to reconfigure neuropathways and old emotional patterns.

When your therapist has been with you over a period of time, this helps to heal that part of you that didn't get consistent care. This care, in effect, helps heal old wounds. It seems that this might be the case with your therapist as he's been there with you for 3 1/2 years.

What's also necessary for healing is a therapist that is sufficiently present and attuned. This describes a therapist that appreciates the importance of relationship and being emotionally available. He or she works to be there for you. For instance, he might pull back and/or challenge you as he senses you're readiness for the next step. You feel he really "gets" you.

What troubles me Carol in your description of your therapist are the words, "this man". They appear to reflect a lack of felt connection (and maybe healthy anger at suddenly feeling dropped).

Let me propose a hypothesis. We all choose a therapist based on our history. We either choose the familiar or the scary (albeit not too scary) "expansive-for-us" therapist. In the former, the "familiar" feels comfortable. So, for example, if a lack of connection is all we know, then it feels "just right"--at least initially.

Carol, it is very possible this is how you initially came to your therapist. You chose what you knew. However with your growth over the years, you are now recognizing a need for more connection. Sometimes we don't know how we've grown until it is brought to our attention. And, your recent experience with your therapist may have been one of those times. That is, how you feel about connection with another may have become more apparent to you when he suggested terminating your therapeutic relationship.

However, crappy this proclamation by your therapist feels, it is all well and good as an indicator of your emotional growth.

It is true that some treatment approaches are not sensitive to relational dynamics. This doesn't necessarily mean that the therapist isn't. If you are up for the task of bringing your feelings into the therapy, he may respond in kind.

Let me give you an idea of the kind of optimal reflections a therapist that's concerned about the therapeutic relationship might make. So, he might say for instance, "You know, I think you're doing really well. And I have noticed all these changes during our work together (such as x, y and z) and I'm so excited about how far you've come. Given this, I have an inkling that we may be heading into a home stretch. What do you think and how do you even feel that I am bringing this up to you today?"

These of course are just a sample of ideas but hopefully they give you an idea of what's possible. It strikes me that a therapist that is able to work with a client for 3 1/2 years might have the kind of qualities that makes it easy for clients to continue i.e. he has some of the emotionally available traits I'm referring to. (Clients tend to leave therapists sooner who aren't good at relationship building.)

I think he might also be able to apply his treatment model to your issue and help you work this out. But it'd be good to tell him how you felt when he mentioned termination (hate that word...sounds like there's no hope and the image of Arnold Schwartzanager
doesn't help) and ask him if he felt he could help you work it out. Based on his response, you can decide if he is up to the task.

Carol, it's not unusual that one therapist is good for only a part of our journey. In fact, my therapist today would not have been a good fit for me years ago. So in your case, if you feel he is not making the kind of effort to connect with you especially over this issue, you may need to seek out someone who can take you to the next level.

I wish you well on your journey,

Shrinklady and Dr. Carole (we all need helpers smiley-smile.gif)


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

Hello Just Me, I was really moved by your story. It sounds as if you're on the right track...slowly, ever so gently, opening up and tapping into your unmet needs. I'm impressed how hard you are working to understand what's going on for you.

You may already be aware that the tears for your therapist are no doubt stemming from earlier losses. Your therapist has helped you to access these yearnings. And, now she can help you heal through the feelings that are attached to her.

It is perfectly natural for you to be thinking of her after your sessions and to have a desire to be with her. Missing your therapist is predictable. She is giving you what you didn't get in your early years...unconditional love. Your mind will take you there whenever you need to be supported. I would encourage you to receive the memory of her as you need to. Try not to hold back or judge your thoughts and feelings. This is your body mind trying to heal.

Eventually, that little girl will have enough love so she can grow up.

Clients have told me that the most pivotal times in therapy were when I shared with them how I felt about them. These honest heartfelt moments helped them to deeply heal.

As I say the words they need, I encourage them to receive it as much as possible. They have told me that they remember these times for when they are feeling down and lonely. (We do the same thing when we think of a friend during difficult times.)

In the abscence of hearing the words you need from your therapist, I suggest that you imagine her saying those things and then take a long moment to receive it and really take it in.

Allow the image of her love and her words to wash over you. I think the more you allow yourself this comfort, the less compelled you will feel to seek out information about her and the greater your healing.

All the best,

Shrinklady

I received this wonderful update from Just Me after posting my reply.

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 Therapist’s side of the relationship is touching. I hope you can continue to be available.

Much heartfelt thanks!
Just Me


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.

Shrinklady

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

Diane

Hi Diane, I felt there was so much in your post that I asked my friend, Dr. Carole to add her thoughts to the topic. What we were really struck with is your deep yearning for a felt connection with your therapist, which is so healthy. And, yes we do hear the agony that you are going through.

Your description of what is happening for you in therapy seems most descriptive of transference. You are allowing yourself to access other parts of yourself. As you might already know, we can't get better without that.

In your situation, it also seems that you can rely on your therapist's consistent physical presence. You can count on her being there when you arrive for your appointments. And, despite what it feels like, from our perspectives, there is also adequate connection in your relationship with your therapist. Otherwise, it is unlikely the transference would have surfaced at all. With that noted, it seems like the felt connection is not sufficient.

What we wondered is if you were being attuned to? It seems to us that your therapist is staying too far away which is keeping you feeling quite desperate and despairing….probably the same feelings you felt as an infant and the source of the transference.

She seems to reveal so little of herself. Without feeling her presence it must be incredibly scary for you. It likely feels as if you are hanging out there without the sure footing that a caring attuned mother would give her infant.

You need to feel that at some point she is joining with you…that she experiences your yearning for connection. It's that feeling of being "tuned into" that provides the kind of emotional safety that helps us heal. She is holding firm boundaries but what seems to be absent is the processing of your relationship as you work together. In other words, she is not making the relationship between the two of you part of the therapy.

You mentioned how your therapist keeps referencing your feelings to "something else". In actual fact, any feeling we have can link up with our past. That goes for any one of us, for any feeling. That's just the way we're wired.

However, while these past-present hook-ups need to be made and it sounds like you're getting a sense of how your past is playing a role in the dynamic, what seems to be missing is looking at what's happening between the two of you in the present moment.

It's a tricky balance. You need to know that your therapist is tough enough to handle what you throw at her but also that she is being impacted by it to some degree. You need to feel her humanness. She needs to match your energy so you can bounce up against something. It kinda reminds me of what a parent might do when a teenager is acting out--meeting their energy with firm boundaries and love.

We were also struck by your struggle with crying while your therapist looks on. Both Dr. Carole and I have had clients express a similar "push-pull" with tears. How a therapist responds can potentially support a healing moment. However, if the bid for connection goes unmet, it can quickly turn into another, "once again I'm alone in my tears".

When Dr. Carole has a sense that her client may be feeling stared at, it is through her attunement that she senses what's most appropriate. For example, some clients will say they don't want to cry while agonizing through spilled tears. In some cases, the depth of a client's tears are such that she will ask if it's okay to sit beside her.

Dr. Carole finds that this helps her client move through the emotion more easily. Because, after all tears are a natural way of expressing deep emotion. We want to honour them, not tuck them away.

One of the things you may have noticed on the site Diane, is my emphasis on neuroscience and child development. Insights from these sources are helping us to see that "we are more human than otherwise" and that our need for connection is a requirement for mind body growth. We feel that your desire to have your therapist "trust you with something" comes from a healthy part of you. You see, as we feel trustworthy, our sense of trust in ourselves expands, and with that, so does life.

We've done our best to address the dynamics described in your post. It's never possible however to objectively know from the outside the nuances inside a therapeutic relationship. Our wish is that we have been helpful and that our musings will assist you in deepening your relationship with your therapist.

All the best on your journey,

Shrinklady and Dr. Carole

 


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,

Shrinklady

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.

Attachment Girl


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

Thanks Suz for comments and for sharing your experience. Transference is incredibly powerful energy, I know. On the positive, that these feelings have surfaced represent a huge potential for healing and growth.

When heart-felt feelings arise in me during my own therapy, just as you described, they're tied with deep shame. I can't look at my therapist. It's gut wrenchingly difficult to tease them apart.

What I've learned though, is that the more I open my heart (and move through the pain), my connections with others take on more meaning. My life becomes richer.

It helps me to know that I needn't to go fast. I can take baby steps.

I wish you similar progress on your very special journey,

Shrinklady


I love and hate my therapist.

Transference is a hard thing to deal with in therapy. I'm a man and I'm having a bad transference with my T currently. I feel like I Love her and I've told her and faced it all my feelings as honestly as I can, but it still hurts.

My transference goes back and forth between positive (love) and very negative(hate) with her. I also have trouble surrending to it and just working it through because I feel my T. has all the power and I'm the one who is very vulnerable.

I have found one support group online with transference A_Most_Heartbreaking_Love/ You are not alone out there with this, we can feel your pain and hope there is a clearing for our peace of mind and greater understanding of ourselves in life.

Jack

Thank-you so much Jack for your post and for the link you offered. I suspect that this group will be helpful to many folks. I will also keep this topic in mind for a future article. I think it is sorely needed.

I wish there was something I could say to help you through this time. If I have some thoughts on it, I will post them and let you know.

All the best,
Shrinklady


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

You're absolutely right Debra...transference is very scary. It's good to hear you have that an awareness of it. I think that's half the work.

The kinda cool part about it too is that if this is happening with your therapist, you can be almost assured that the same dynamic is playing a role in your life...even in ways you might not imagine at this point...what I mean is, won't it be great when it's no longer interfering with your life.

That's certainly been my experience. I've been quite surprised--and pleased--with the changes I've made. I could never have predicted them based on the work I did.

So, I wish the same success for you.

All the best,

Shrinklady

 


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